By Travis Thompson
For the first time in years, Ponheary Ly Foundation is adding an additional public school to its system. Romchek Primary School is a strategic addition as it’s close to Koh Ker Primary and Srayang Dormitory in Preah Vihear Province.
Situated just 15 kilometers from Koh Ker–where PLF has been involved with the public school since 2006– is Romchek Primary which has about 160 students between Grades 1 and 6. While some students regularly attend what classes are offered there, and the school director and staff appear very engaged and caring, the school is riddled with issues that block access to the school, issues that, if corrected, would make the school not only more accessible, but also a source of higher quality education.
In May, Ponheary and the team made their first visit to the school. Upon their visit, the biggest troubles were: No clean water, not enough food, and no student classroom supplies like books, paper or pencils. The Red Cross has come to the school to teach school staffers and students about clean water, and in village households there appears to be good compliance with boiling water, but the Red Cross didn’t leave any filters at the school or any other way to purify enough water for 160 children every day. In addition, these days the school only receives rice, salt, oil and a very small ration of fish cans. The students don’t get any vegetables or sufficient protein source.
As PLF goes forward with its first steps at the school, it’ll provide a more robust meal program, including a paid cook at the school. In PLF’s other schools, we’ve seen the food programs dramatically improve student health and cut down on costs to transport children to the city for doctor visits. PLF’s initial work will also include school supplies, uniforms, water filters and remodeling the kitchen. A very important aspect of the location of the school is that it’s within 30 kilometers of
PLF Canada’s Srayang Dormitory which is an intervention program that takes students from their difficult village life and enables students from Koh Ker Village to attend Grades 7, 8 and 9, which are not offered in their village, or in Romchek. Since beginning operations at Koh Ker School, several students from Romchek have tried to attend Koh Ker School so that they might be able to move to Srayang Dorm following Grade 6, but ultimately PLF had to turn these students away because it didn’t have the capacity to add any more students to Koh Ker. By bringing Romchek Primary into PLF’s operation , Romchek students will be eligible to move to Srayang Dormitory following Grade 6.