English, computer training crucial for Cambodian kids. By Sukunthy Nam

In early April a week or so before Khmer New Year, 15-year old Pisey couldn’t stop smiling at Hope for Cambodian Children’s prize-giving ceremony for the 200 students who had recently sat its 2016 first semester exams in computers and English. She was one of 30 outstanding students awarded Certificates of Appreciation and small gifts before all 200 got stuck into some traditional fun Khmer New Year party games such as eating watermelons, yams and transferring limes by mouth and spoon.

Although Cambodia is a predominantly agricultural country, mastering computers and speaking a foreign language have become key additional preferred qualifications in the country’s public and private sectors, leading Hope to set up English and computer classes at its community centre. Cambodia’s public schools teach mainstream subjects but provide only limited hours of English and computer training.

Parents in Battambang who can afford it send their children to a private school teaching computer and English literacy from a young age, with these kids becoming fluent in English and computers by the time they finish high school. Because poor families cannot afford to send their children to these classes, their kids find it hard to compete in the job market, end up in low-paid jobs and are locked into the poverty cycle.

Responding to these issues, Hope has recently increased the number of its free English and computer training classes in the afternoons to 10, with the 200 students studying at the centre from Monday to Friday after attending public school in the morning. Students like Pisey study basic English, use Microsoft Office and learn soft skills such as team work, time management, regular attendance and punctuality. Although Hope teaches students to be independent learners who study in the library and conduct research in the learning centre, the pupils usually work in groups and have group discussions in the garden before class. They have improved their English and feel more confident speaking English with their teachers and friends. Computer class students are able to create and work on Microsoft Word, Excel and make PowerPoint presentations.

Pisey, a Grade 9 lower secondary school student who studies English and computer skills at Hope in the afternoons, has four siblings and construction worker parents whose wages are not enough to support the family’s basic needs. She says that sometimes family members have to skip meals or eat only a little food to ensure there is something to eat for the rest of the day. Despite this, her parents manage to send all the children to school.

Pisey first heard about the English and computer classes at Hope from a friend and bravely arrived to register on her own. After studying at the centre for about a year she notices that her writing and speaking have improved a lot, and this semester she won a 1st class award for English and 3rd class award for computer skills. She hopes her English and computer skills will help pursue her dream of becoming a news reporter for a local TV station – and (who knows?), possibly an international one.

Romaly is a Grade 8 student at a local lower secondary school who has been studying English and computer skills at Hope for about a year. His junk collector parents could not afford the tuition fees for the private English class, so when he heard about Hope’s free English class he willingly came to register. Romaly says his English has improved a lot and he can use Microsoft Office well these days. He has a strong commitment to become an agricultural expert to train farmers to improve farming techniques in order to produce better crop yields.

Grade 6 primary school student Liya started studying beginner-level English at Hope a few months ago. Her parents decided to register her at Hope because they cannot afford to pay for the private class. Luckily, the Hope Centre is close to her house so she can attend evening classes without worrying about safely travelling on the roads. Liya says that since she began studying at Hope her vocabulary and pronunciation have improved a lot, and she believes that her improved English will help her become a vet – because she loves to take care of animals.

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Celebrating their awards!