A Library for Srayang Learning Center ~ Preah Vihear Province, Cambodia
Following upon the success of the construction and equipping of a library for Romchek Primary School in Preah Vihear Province, we engaged in a 2nd project with with Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF): the funding for a vital, much-needed library at Srayang Learning Center. Srayang Learning Center is specifically geared to students in grades 7 - 12 and provides various enrichment programs to students to succeed through high school. Formally used as a dorm center for students, the conversion to a Learning Center, along with a new bussing schedule to bring 150+ students from 3 neighboring villages, means that instead of only the top 25-30% of graduating 6th graders who previously could get into Srayang Dormitory, now 100% of all graduates can continue on to secondary school.
Students arrive in Srayang every morning and attend the public secondary school where they complete their government curriculum. At noon they cross the street to eat lunch at the Srayang Learning Center and finish up their day there with English and computer classes, remedial Khmer and math classes, informal study groups, life skill workshops, chess club, and more. The library is at the core of the students' learning experiences as there isn’t another library within 150 km.
WaterBridge Outreach funded the shelving and first upload of books for the library at Srayang Learning Center. The library, anchored in a 10 x 6 meter Study Hall and consisting of a 6 meter long wall of enclosed shelving, was pulled together quickly upon school closures at the end of November 2020 so that non-contact book lending could be done immediately.
In January 2021 the Center re-opened at the start of the new school year (which began late due to the pandemic) and ran until March 22, 2021 when all schools nationwide were once again closed. At that time PLF worked quickly to launch a mobile library. The librarian took books from the Srayang Learning Center out to the villages of Romchek, Tha Pra, and Koh Ker (home of the Srayang Students) and set up shop at the primary schools where PLF does regular food drops for vulnerable students and their families. The mobile library was a resounding success with students of all ages eager to get their hands on books while stay at home orders were in place. It was a lifeline for students unable to access online classes,and book borrowing increased among students by 85%.
Exercise sheets prepared by Srayang Learning Center teachers were also handed out. Unfortunately, government teachers at the remote Srayang High School were unable to provide school work for their students for most of the lockdown. As a result, the efforts of the teachers at the Learning Center were the only connection these students had to school.
While much of Cambodia struggles through the strictest lockdown measures yet, PLF students in Preah Vihear Province recently returned to the Learning Center at Srayang to resume their classes. Now that more than 80% of high school students have been vaccinated, school will be rolling out slowly: the areas that are deemed "most safe" will come back first. The library will play an important role in helping students to "catch up" with the many months of school they’ve missed. Shelves are filled with study guides, learning resources for each grade 7 - 12 as well as books for independent and pleasure reading. Additional materials include games and activities that challenge students, including snap circuits, chess, maps, STEM games and art supplies.
Non, the librarian at Srayang is from Romchek Village and a former resident of Srayang when it was a dormitory. He is also an English teacher at the facility and teaches remedial Khmer language classes as well. He lives and breathes reading and writing, in both languages. With his knowledge, dedication and passion for literacy he is igniting a fire in young readers and helping to support their educational paths as well as building a lifelong love of reading.
WaterBridge Outreach: Books + Water is delighted to have partnered with PLF on this very worthwhile project that has not only supported students through the pandemic, but will continue to serve them through their secondary school years.