Now that Covid-19 is no longer keeping us in our houses and the world is settling into its “new normal,” it feels like a time to get back on track. For PeopleStories, getting back on track means giving deserving children in rural Cambodia greater access to quality education.
Unfortunately, Cambodia has struggled in education for decades. According to a UNICEF report, “Children continue to fall behind in school for a number of reasons, including not being adequately prepared for school, experiencing poor quality teaching and learning, and attending school irregularly. This eventually leads to many of them dropping out altogether.”
Amid the global pandemic educators around the world scrambled to figure out the best approach to continue educating its youth. Online learning became a household term very quickly. Laptops were being handed out. Zoom became a classroom. In the rural villages of Cambodia, our children don’t have the luxury of digital devices or internet access. Many of the children come from poor families and they cannot afford computers, tablets, or smartphones. There is not sufficient internet access and connectivity is a debilitating issue in the rural areas.
PeopleStories and its dedicated team of local and international volunteers came together and brainstormed to come up with a program to best serve the children’s education needs. After months of meetings, sweat and tears, Smart School Anywhere was born! Our Founder, Victoria said, “Smart School Anywhere will bring education to rural children via a ‘classroom on wheels!’ This deployment of a mobile classroom equipped with digital education capabilities will benefit many children at Rolous Secondary School and Chea Smonn Secondary School.”
Digital School is Stage 1 of Smart School Anywhere and it went live this month! It’s a very exciting time for all of us. I spoke with our virtual volunteer, Roberta, who is leading the Learning and Design team and asked her to describe some of the challenges faced during the Digital School development process. Roberta reflected on the Covid pandemic delaying two launch dates in early 2022. She also shared, “There have been a few hurdles along the way, like ascertaining a curriculum for our first course to match our learners’ knowledge level and needs in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).”
For many of the children, this is their first time ever sitting down at a laptop. The basics of learning what a keyboard is, and a mouse, and how to use them was part of a 3-session orientation. Overall, the children are very excited about Digital School and eager to learn more. We were very curious to find out what the children were feeling after they had a chance to get hands-on time on the computers. Student Pheak explained how he is very excited about digital school and always comes to class early and said, “I’m interested in this digital school so much and my parents also help urge me to come to school on time and regularly.”
The Cambodian people are resilient and hard working and given the proper tools, and opportunities, will overcome their challenges, including the obstacles hindering their advancement in education. Obstacles like limited internet connection, lack of digital devices, and digital illiteracy.
These deserving children in rural Cambodia need access to quality education for them to uplift themselves from poverty. Our Smart School Anywhere and Digital School will equip the children with the skills for a brighter future. Victoria humbly shared, “Our Digital School uses a remote server that holds all of our learning contents. It does not require any internet, but learning feels similar to online as our e-learning units are in web pages/web-based.”
It’s evident the children have excitement for learning. They are ready to learn about the digital world. Can you feel the hope and excitement in their words about Digital School?
Join us and help uplift the future generations. 100% of donations goes directly to keep our programs like Smart School Anywhere and Digital School continue.: PeopleStories SchoolForLife 2022 (raisely.com)
Story written by: Volunteer Kathy Aunkst