The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own. [ or hers :) ] ~Benjamin Disraeli ~

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Starting Work

I arrived at the college to a sight very familiar from my time in Tanzania. Student teachers were in uniform, lined up in front of the national flag. Socha, my translator, arrived and we went to meet the Director only to be told that she was at a workshop – as were all the tutors. No classes for students today or tomorrow. Ot panya ha (hakuna matata, no problem!) I had an office to sort out. It was filthy so we set about cleaning it – actually Socha did most of the work, he was brilliant.

We took a look round and visited the adjoining practice school where it was playtime. All spare paper was transformed into origami boxes or paper aeroplanes, some to a complex design my Dad used to make. Children were all very friendly and fascinated by my nose!

College hours are 7.00 – 11.00 then 2.00 – 5.00. A long lunch break but it was too hot to do anything more than buy a few things at the market and rest at home. My house is only a few minutes walk from my workplace.

Greeting me in the afternoon was another familiar sight – students with brooms sweeping the college. A couple of young men were sent to fetch the VSO computer for my office where Socha enjoyed setting it up. At first it did not work, the multi socket broken and the UPS too. After a trip to the stationery shop I was ready for action.

 I have spent the past couple of weeks seeing how things work at the college. Nearing the end of the academic year is not a good time for me to be doing any meaningful work but it gives me time to get to know people, assess the situation and make plans. The college itself is a nice building but neglected. Classrooms are generally light and airy with birds passing through but there are no fans so it can get very hot. There is a library with a fair selection of education and children's books and I have a small adjoining office. The computer room has only 6 computers, students were disappointed today as their lesson was cancelled – no electricity. A music room full of electronic pianos is a source of pride. Outside my office is a pile of 18 more keyboards donated for use in schools. I don't know how long they have been there but the problem is that schools have no electricity in their classrooms. An example of donors not doing their homework!

At the moment, first year students are out on Teaching Practice in four local schools. Visiting them I got a taste of the problems facing teachers here. Some classrooms are wooden, others brick but all are hot, dark and dusty. I was pleasantly surprised to see that class sizes are around 40, some much less, but am told that they are higher in rural areas. Head teachers were keen to point out the flood marks on classroom walls and relate tales of fishermen casting their nets in the flooded playground during last years devastating rains. Teaching resources are few and far between although one school has a lovely library.

Cambodia has many bank holidays so I haven't done a full week yet, It's still hard to imagine how I will make an impact with limited language skills and a part time translator but I'm looking forward to finding out how it works.

Library on stilts

Inside the library

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