Pathfinders Update: A School on Stilts in Cambodia

Foundation Beyond Belief’s Pathfinders are in Cambodia working with the Bridge of Life school. Wendy Webber has a report (or here) on a visit to a school built on stilts that serves a floating village called Kampong Klein. She and the others are learning some of the difficulties of providing education to young Cambodians:

But there are things we who live on dry land take for granted. Kids from Kampong Klein have a thirty minute boat ride to get to school. That’s just to the edge of the water. Then they have to walk to school. And that’s only if they have a motor on their boat—most kids row themselves. These are not kids who take their education for granted.

These are also kids whose family can afford to send their kids to school. These are the kids who live in brightly painted homes with tin roofs and satellite dishes. Many kids in the floating villages do not have access to a boat to go to school—so they don’t go to school. But it’s not just access to a boat that hampers poor children’s education. The Cambodian school system is a bribery system. Students often have to bribe the teacher each morning in order to be taught at all. They have to bribe the teacher to have a test graded. Teachers sometimes sell the answer key to their own final exams to their students. Students who don’t bribe their teachers will simply get bad grades as a result. I can’t entirely fault the teachers for engaging in this practice though. Most teachers make only $50 (USD) a month, which is simply not a living wage. This is a systemic problem. Teachers have to bribe their principals and principals have to bribe the local Education Ministry office. Students learn how to bribe as they learn how to read.

Kampong Klein, however, offers a free school for the poor kids of the village, which is only possible because of Bridge of Life School. This school is why we were in Kampong Klein this weekend.

They’re also helping dig wells and trying to find ways to help the local people keep their waste separate from their water supplies. So much work to do — and so proud of Wendy, Ben, Conor and Michelle for all the work they’re putting in.

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