The SAS team and SSC members at the end of the school trip (Photo by The SAS Team)
A PEPY-sponsored school trip recently took place in two districts of Banteay Mean Chey province, Siem Reap’s neighbor to the west. The visit involved 54 people, including 49 School Support Committee (SSC) members from the schools in which PEPY is implementing the SAS model. The parents, teachers, school director, and community members from SSCs found the visit to be an eye-opening experience.
The morning visit was at a model school in Poipet. The school was originally funded by a foreign organization some years ago, but now it is operating under government funding with active involvement from the community. One great example of community involvement in this school is an initiative to supplement kindergarten teachers’ salaries.
The second school visit was at a model school in Monkul Borey. The school’s director is an influential person in the community, and with the help of his networking skills, the school has received huge funding from various non-profit organizations. The received funding helped to support the salaries of seven contract teachers and one government teacher. It also doubled the salary of all the teachers and staff in the school. Altogether, the average amount of money dedicated every month to supplementing teacher salaries is about $7,000.
When evaluating the two schools, the SSCs determined that both schools have a good environment for both students and teachers. Each organization of course has its own area in which it excels: the Poipet school has a better student council, and the Monkul Borey school has better salaries for teachers, which in turn motivates the teachers to do a better job. We found overall that both institutions are great examples of model schools.
At the end of the day, the Chanleas Dai school director raised a great point about sustainability. According to him, even though the Poipet school might be making slower progress than the Monkul Borey school, it is more self-sufficient because it can stand on its own feet without funding from non-governmental organizations. The second school receives thousands of dollars per month from an outside organization to support teachers’ salaries, therefore the solution is not sustainable.
The director’s comment indicated that he understood the true meaning of what lies behind SAS’s goal. It has shown that the SAS program has born some fruits. After all, SAS’s goal is to empower communities to develop sustainable schools that provide all children a quality education.
After a day of school visits, the SSCs from Chanleas Dai learned many valuable lessons. They now have the ideas and tools to motivate themselves to make schools in their communities better. In addition, they have learned that it takes strong leadership to make a model school. Finally, they see and understand the real importance of community involvement in making schools more effective and sustainable.