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Special Projects: Secondary School Tutoring

28 July 2011

We are humbled by the tenacity of many of the students who have finished primary school at Tchey, Knar and Wat Bo School and continued to pursue their education into secondary school with no assistance from us but uniforms and supplies. When Khmer children and their families are living in poverty, they face many obstacles in the pursuit of education.  The way the public school system is set up in Cambodia, all children can attend school  for 1/2 day, 6 days a week, assuming they have a uniform, some supplies and can get themselves there. The other half of the day, students pay their teachers to “tutor them”.  Students who are too poor to pay, basically receive half an education and unless they can find a way to get themselves into some private classes, they have a difficult time passing the 12th grade exam and receiving their diploma. Most in fact never make it that far; fail rates among the rural poor in secondary school are astonishing, only 2% graduate. There are several obstacles to graduating, but the first and foremost is this business of only getting half the teaching they need in order to pass. Westerners are often appalled by this idea and immediately want to “do something about the system”. This is a good intentioned thought and can we just say that we agree. We can only say that the children of Cambodia, upon whose shoulders firmly rests this kind of radical change, need to go to school.

We’d like to start paying the tutoring for our students who are especially bright but have zero possibility of making payment for the classes they need.  Next year we hope to start a fund from which our secondary school students can apply for tutoring grants. In the”right now”, there are a few students who we are quite keen to help and who cannot wait for this fund to get established. Their time is now.

We’d like to interject that Ponheary and the Ly family have funded these students from their own pockets since they left primary school until now. With Ponheary doing more and more PLF work and less and less touring, it’s time for the PLF to pony up and start thinking about what we can do for our secondary school students. As we said in the beginning of this plea, we are humbled by their tenacity and there are many more where these came from. If we’re lucky, this number will grow and grow as we see more of our students attempting, and succeeding, at secondary school.

Pheatima in computer class

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Pheatima is a 16-year-old in grade 10 at Ankgor High School. She attends computer classes at the PLF Computer Lab, and She needs English lessons so that she is able to catch up to the level of the other students in her grade.  She has four siblings, and her mother cares for them on her own with the money she earns washing clothes, which is about $2 per day.

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Lita and Za Za

Dy Lita, who is now  16-years-old, was 12 and studying in 3rd grade when she met Ponheary.  She was the best in the class but also quite a bit older than the other students.  Ponheary worked with the school to allow her to skip grade 4 and jump directly to grade 5 and Lita came to live with the Ly family.   The family provides her with academic support, but she also works very hard to build her own knowledge.  She is good friends with Ariza (Za Za for short), Ponheary’s neice.  Za Za (who is in grade 9) also helps Lita with her lessons.  She is now is reading at an advanced level for grade 5, and Ponheary is working with the school to help her jump to grade 7 in an effort to catch her up.   In order to make this happen, she needs tutoring.

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Son Sreineang is currently in grade 10 at Angkor High School, and needs private English tutoring in order to finish high school and pass the exam. She is excelling at all her other subjects.   Sreineang was a top student at Knar School and among our very first class of graduates there (but graduated way before we had an English program at Knar). She moved to Siem Reap in order to attend upper secondary school, living with her older brother.

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The PLF sponsored Yon Heourn to attend  Wat Bo Primary School in Siem Reap, one of the best schools in the country,   Heourn continues to be one of the top students his class at Angkor High and now we want to support his tuition, tutoring and expenses while he studies at Future Bright High School.  An orphan, Heourn lives in an NGO-run dormitory in Siem Reap and attends computer classes at the PLF Computer Lab.   Recently Heourn organized a group of students to participate in a week-long math clinic run by a PLF volunteer just after he competed in a Mathematics Olympiad in Phnom Penh.

Article by Lori Carlson