In the beginning, PLF operated only in rural primary schools – of which Chey was one. Even while looking beyond the primary school boundary towards high school and beyond, all projects were deployed from inside the primary school: English classes, Tech courses, Workshops …
Around 2018, we began to outgrow that model and started transitioning away from the primaries – physically relocating to our own learning centers as close as possible to the secondary school that students would track to, while including the community as part of the catchment. And then we got busy expanding student enrolment.
We did this first at Knar, then at Srayang. In April 2022 we launched an Urban Learning Center in Siem Reap. The final transition will now be at Chey.
Normally we position ourselves in the very center of catchment. In creating the new Learning Center in Siem Reap city, we found a location right between the two high schools our urban students attend, making it easy for them to get there. On bikes, in the evening.
At Chey there are also two very good high schools that students track to:
- Samdach Oev, on the outskirts of Siem Reap proper
- Puok High School, very progressive and well-funded by a thriving middle class
The center of those two points is exactly where Chey Primary stands. Therefore the location needed to be somewhere inside this pink square to be accessible to the entire catchment.
However, having scouted locations for this final piece of our jigsaw, we can say with much certainty that this building does not already exist in Chey! This has been a major challenge for us. The need for expansion of services to our high school students in the Chey area is greater than ever.
The positive factors that combine to make Chey’s ‘secret sauce’ mean the kids there engage at a high level in everything PLF puts forth. Any program that we roll out there is always strongly embraced, well-piloted and successful as a result, making them easy to roll out at other locations.
Currently Chey students represent about 40% of total high school scholarships awarded; only a few % behind Urban and climbing. And over the last four years they have taken an average of 22% of all University scholarships awarded. Having inevitably lost some shares during COVID, they are recovering this year:
2021 Grade 12 cohort from Chey
It is therefore paramount that we find a way to extend our support and programs to keep the students of Chey on the right path to high school, through a learning center that is easily and equally accessible, whether they track to Siem Reap or Puok.
We won’t be daunted, and if a building doesn’t already exist, we’re rolling out plan B.
Due to positive socio-economic factors in the last ten years, the communities around Chey have generally stabilized and improved. A middle class has emerged that can send its kids to private schools in either Siem Reap or Puok. Slowly the number of students at Chey Primary has dwindled from over 1,000 students since that time to around 600 now. What we are left with at Chey are the “average students” whose families don’t have enough money to send them to private school. Chey is a huge campus and now has a number of vacant classrooms as a result.
PLF already has three of those classrooms which hold the projects we were intent on moving out: two English classes and the Lab. And the great news is that the Principal has agreed to give us however many classrooms we feel we need to set up our Learning Center onsite.
While the pain point of being inside the public schools at Knar and Srayang was having to deal with a DISTRICT level of the Ministry of Education, at Chey this is greatly mitigated as we deal with the higher PROVINCIAL level which is a much easier negotiation. They know how to do paperwork, they don’t create obstacles, they are more familiar with the pure scope of PLF and are largely helpful facilitators.
The advantages are that startup will be much, MUCH cheaper. We’ve been present at Chey school for 15 years already and we won’t have the cost of rebuilding a facility from scratch to make it work for us. We are already familiar with it as a location, and importantly the parents and students also. Chey Primary is a secure facility, on a major, well-lit paved road; the one that students already traverse and have traversed for years.
Below is a chart showing the number of students currently enrolled in each after-school program at Chey. This is our starting point:
Instead of taking up time and effort with facility creation, from here we commit purely to building out our programs – eLearning is already taking off and IT will double when our new Explore lab goes in.
Sometimes in scouting around for the piece you thought you were missing, you realize the answer was right there in front of you all along!
Like the sound of our programs and want to get involved, but not sure how?
For as little as $10 a month, you could contribute to the ongoing education of our students. $120 goes a long way in Cambodia: that’s 5 village children on the road to education, with access to school and clean drinking water for half a year. Or a million other things, all of which coalesce into the tools needed for life to change for the better!
Have some questions?
Email us for a chat at [email protected]