Phnom Penh, Cambodia (11 March 2020) – As Cambodia celebrated its 5th annual National Reading Day on 11 March 2020, Aide et Action delivered books to ethnic minority primary schools in Ratanakiri province, to promote literacy among one some of the country’s most vulnerable and marginalized children.
In Cambodia, the remoteness of the northeastern provinces of Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri, Steung Treng, Kratie, and Preah Vihear coupled with language barriers and entrenched poverty lead to problems among ethnic minority children to attend and remain in school. Aide et Action is currently working to increase the volume, quality, and availability of native language learning content for teachers, ethnic minority students, and the ethnic minority communities through scholarships for students to help them complete the primary education cycle; teacher training to support primary school teachers, particularly multilingual educators; and the integration of school libraries which offer books in Khmer and ethnic minority languages.
Aide et Action is at the forefront of promoting literacy in Cambodia and since 2013, has adopted “ICT for education” as a key concept in Cambodia, using inclusive technology to deliver quality education by digitizing books, developing a learning app and installing new tools and libraries in schools and communities. Digitizing books and making them available through libraries, tablets and via an iOS and Android app means books are more accessible for all children.
As well as installing libraries in primary schools across the country, Aide et Action also runs mobile libraries – in the form of tuk-tuks and motos – to deliver books to hard-to-reach communities. On Thursday, 11 March 2020, to celebrate National Reading Day, Aide et Action delivered new books to students in Grade 4-6 in Rattanakiri Province as well as bringing seven new book titles to add to school libraries. The organization also encouraged primary schools across the country to hold reading activities and celebrate the joy of reading with students.
After receiving a new storybook about Asean countries, Grade 5 student Lisa wanted to head to the school library straight away and get stuck in. “I love reading and now that we have a library at school, I come twice a week” says Lisa. “Since I started using the library and reading outside of the classroom, I’ve gotten better grades”, she adds.
Grade 2 teacher Oun Sovan has noticed a difference among the students in his primary school too. “Over the last ten years, I’ve worked on and off as a contract teacher in Rattanakiri province and what I see now, coming back this year, is improved infrastructure including libraries” remarks Sovan. “I didn’t have a library in my primary school when I was a kid but I see it making all the difference in primary schools now”, says Sovan, adding that attendance is up because the libraries are offering children alternative ways to engage in education. “Even if they can’t read yet, they are coming to look at the pictures in the books or listen to storytelling”, he explains.
Creating a culture of reading lies at the heart of National Reading Day and is supported by reading campaigns such as the “#ReadEveryDay campaign” developed by the Ministry of Education. Aide et Action’s regional Communication Manager Christine Redmond stated that “multi-partner projects and cross-collaboration between the government, schools, communities and development organizations is essential in developing early reading habits in Cambodia to foster lifelong learning”.
As dry season approaches, many children in rural areas will miss class to help their families harvest cashew nuts and other crops. Aide et Action views National Reading Day is an apt time to remind children, parents and community members of the importance of education and literacy and encourage them to attend school as much as possible.