In rural and remote parts of Cambodia, teachers travel long distances or stay in unsuitable accommodation in order to teach their students. As we celebrate International Teacher’s Day 2021, we wish to focus on the need to ensure teachers have safe working conditions as they return to their classrooms.
Before Covid, teacher Koeun Kimsry’s trek to school in Cambodia’s rural Kampong Thom province was 120km, an unfeasible journey that led her to live in a community-built dormitory near the school. But, without proper ventilation, sleeping there was too hot to handle during Cambodia’s dry season and during monsoon season, holes in the roof led to a very uncomfortable night’s sleep.
In remote areas such as Krayea Tbong village where Kimsry teaches, renting a house is not an option like it might be for those living in a more developed or urban area. Many teachers sleep in one building split into rooms with dormitories (one for men, one for single women and one for women with children). The small wooden structure that slept Kimsry and 15 other teachers has posed particular problems for its female occupants during her stay there.
“The toilet is too far from my dormitory so I’ve been afraid to use it during the night. Even during the daytime, I prefer to use the students’ toilet”, explains Kimsry.
Building back education
Now, as Cambodia’s child vaccine drive is underway and hopes are high that schools may reopen again after prolonged closures, Aide et Action is supporting the development of better school infrastructure for teachers like Kimsry so that teachers have better living conditions and are better equipped to deliver quality education.
In partnership with the European Union, Educate A Child, a global program of the Education Above All Foundation, The Advocacy and Policy Institute, Pursat and Kampong Thom Provincial Associations of Local Councils and Krayea School, Aide et Action began the construction of a new dormitory for female teachers in September 2021.
The construction is estimated to finish in late October and the new dormitory will be reserved for eight female teachers, teaching grades 7-12, who live far from the school. The school and community have also mobilized to fundraise for the construction of a new toilet for the teachers, an addition warmly welcomed by Kimsry and her colleagues.
“There will be a toilet next to the building so I think I’m going to feel safe to use it at night now”, says Kimsry. She reckons the building’s larger size will make it more comfortable and allow her to do her work better. “I will feel more comfortable to stay so I’ll be able to concentrate better in preparing lesson plans and correcting the student’s homework.”
In Solidarity with Cambodia’s teachers
For Cambodia’s teaching workforce, the unprecedented educational emergency caused by Covid moved teachers out of the classroom and onto mobile and TV screens, radios and even students’ doorsteps as they tried to deliver education any which way they could. Now, as we prepare to open the classroom doors again, we want to offer them continued support and solidarity to move back to teaching in-person safely.
From the construction of dormitories and toilets to providing hygiene and learning material for students and teachers alike, Aide et Action remains committed to the continuity of education for all. As we mark International Teacher’s Day on 5 October 2021, we acknowledge and appreciate the unwavering commitment of the teachers we work with.