We have had a whirlwind four days of visiting primary schools with Denise Arnold (Cambodia Trust, Tauranga), each night returning to a guest house in Kampot. 17 of us travelled in 2 vans, including two translators who administer the Trust here. At each school, Denise (and the rest of us) were warmly welcomed. We all helped distribute school uniforms to some of the children and books and pens to others. How delighted they were with their new books!
Denise also had a meeting with the school Director (Principal) and teachers to ask them what they most needed to further improve their teaching and/or equipment needed at the school.
We had a chance to look into the classrooms and try to interact with the children but their English is practically non-existent at primary level (and our Khmer is no better!) At each school some of the group helped Denise by inspecting the school toilets and water supply, others took photos of the sponsored girls, others checked out whether the school provided easy access for wheelchairs and someone checked the first aid kit.
The class sizes are huge 50+ (I'll never complain about 25children in my class again!) They are often 4 to a desk that is made for 2. The teacher has a blackboard and some chalk and very little else - a few posters and children's art work up around the room. In several classrooms, the teacher had her toddler on her hip as she taught.
Morning school is from 7 am to 11 am and afternoon from 1 to 5 pm with different children. Some teachers do both shifts, others just one.
The schools do not have electricity and the rooms are stuffy and hot. Only the library at each school had a tiled floor, the rest were concrete. The squat toilets have been installed by CCT and use a scoop and trough of water for flushing (and wiping!) At some of the schools there is a basin of water outside each classroom for hand washing.
But what happy and delightful children, full of curiosity and smiles.
We had time for one side trip up Bokor mountain where King Sihanoek had his mountain retreat and the French built a huge hotel in the 1930's. Everything is now derelict and looked eerie as the clouds rolled over the top of the mountain and around the old buildings. Plans are afoot to develop this area by building big new hotels and the mountain road is being fixed up to accommodate this.
One evening we ventured to a Seeing Hands (blind people) massage in Kompot. It was a Japanese shiatsu massage from top to toe (including all the bits in between, VERY firm but supposedly therapeutic! Had to say"ouch" a few times.