Thursday, June 20, 2013

Providing education opportunities for preschoolers in rural Cambodia

Sim Samong David with his mother Sie Samol at Spantomnab Community preschool.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Reid
Sim Samong David is 4-years-old and has been attending Spantomnab Community Preschool in Bou commune, Battambang province, since it opened in October 2012. David’s mother, 39-year-old Sie Samol, who grows mushrooms for a living, is ecstatic that the building which used to be a ‘Sala Chor Teann’ (a venue for meetings in the community) is now the place where children can learn and develop.
“Before the school opened, David used to stay at home with me. I would show him pictures and teach him the Khmer alphabet and sometimes he would draw,” recalls Samol. “I even taught him to count from 1 to 50 but my teaching was very limited.”

In Cambodia, due to the lack of available preschools, it is commonplace for children to stay at home until they reach primary school age. Many children, especially in rural areas, are therefore deprived of this essential educational head-start. During the 2010 to 2011 school year less than a quarter of Cambodian children aged between 3 and 5, had access to early childhood opportunities.

With the state preschool some five kilometres away from Spantomnab village, the Commune Council decided to transform the former meeting place into a community preschool in 2010. They set about recruiting a teacher and with support from UNICEF and funds from the Japan Committee for UNICEF, the preschool received teaching and learning supplies. As a result, David and his classmates are able to attend the new Spantomnab Community Preschool for two hours from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday to Saturday, every week.

New skills

“Since going to school, David knows how to say his sampeas [Cambodian greeting] to family and friends. He knows how to sing special songs and can count from 1 to 100. Before he didn’t know how to do these things”, says Samol excitedly.  “David talks a lot and he’s more sociable.  I’m happy my child is learning well in this school and I’m very lucky the school is nearby and I don’t have to worry about David and the traffic on the roads.”

It is well known that children who attend preschools are more prepared for primary schools and are less likely to drop-out. In Battambang province, UNICEF works in partnership  with the commune councils, the Provincial Planning and Investment Division of the provincial administration, the Provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sports, and the Provincial Department  of Women’s Affairs. Together they plan, cost and establish community preschools, contribute to teacher salaries, and provide teaching and learning supplies. These supplies include floor mats, paper, note books, scissors, pencils, crayons, and play items such as soft toys, balls, hula hoops, skipping ropes and building blocks.

Moung Eyi teaches her young pupils at Spantomnab Community Preschool.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Reid
Twenty-two children attend the Spantomnab Community Preschool which is managed and run by 18-year-old Moung Eyi. “I have been teaching at this preschool for nearly seven months and this is my first teaching job,” says Eyi. “I really enjoy teaching here because my students are enthusiastic about learning and regularly attend classes. They’re only absent from school when they are ill or when their parents travel out of town.”

In her classes, Eyi addresses the children’s moral and cultural development, emotional and social development, cognitive thinking and language skills, through story-telling, play, art, dance and lessons in basic hygiene.

Although Eyi is satisfied with her job, she is concerned about the school’s basic infrastructure. “It would be nice to have walls around the school and for the materials to remain in the school overnight. When the preschool is open, I have to bring the mat, school materials and small chairs to the school in the morning, and take them home after classes,” said Eyi.

Gearing up for primary education

Samol is pleased that the community preschool is contributing to her son’s readiness for primary school. “David will start primary school when he is 6-years-old and I feel the preschool is doing a good job in really preparing him. He’s popular in the preschool and not scared or afraid of starting primary school.”

La Phat, Commune Committee women and children focal point outside Spantomnab Community Preschool.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Reid
La Phat, the focal point for women and children in Bou commune is also pleased with the impact of the community preschool on the development of children in the village.

“Since the preschool opened in October last year, I’ve only received positive feedback from the parents. The children appear to be learning at a good rate - learning good manners and basic greetings. They have developed their social skills and are more vocal and socialised than children of the same age, who do not attend a preschool,” said Phat.

With evidence that the preschoolers are acquiring appropriate skills to start primary school, the commune council is planning to build another preschool in the near future. In the meantime, Phat is actively encouraging parents in the village, to send children aged 3 to 5 to Spantomnab Community Preschool so that they too can benefit from its stimulating learning environment.

By Angelique Reid


  1. Phoenix preschool is best and have good faculty to develop the kids understanding to know about all fundamentals and basic concepts.

  2. I really appreciate the way that preschools are provided.