Diverse experiences on education shared at regional meeting
CAMBODIA, The minibus slows down and finally stops. The road is just too muddy to keep on driving. The rain caught Cambodia by surprise, as March is still officially the dry season. Group of Education Project Officers (EPO), who attend the annual East Asia and Pacific Regional EPOs’ Meeting, don’t seem to mind the walk at all. The team continues its way to Vaing Khang Chenung primary school in Kampong Thom province with determination.
“Field trips are of course a very useful part of the meeting. Issues become more concrete than by just seeing presentations”, says Martijn Engels, Education Project Officer from UNICEF Yangoon, Myanmar.
Some 50 participants from 16 countries came for a whole week to Cambodia. Four groups visited UNICEF supported activities in three provinces, focusing on Educational Management Information System (EMIS) and local planning, Inclusive Education, Child Friendly Schools and Early Childhood Development.
This team visits rural Child Friendly Schools (CFS) supported by UNICEF. The CFS uses a holistic approach to child development and learning. This includes the enrolment by the age of six, enjoyable learning, healthy and clean schools, gender sensitive activities, involvement of families and communities and supporting the teachers.
The newly painted Vaing Khang Chenung primary school is on the shore of a small picturesque lake, fringed by palm trees. Inside the classrooms children are busy at work. The educational experts observe the classes and later discuss issues with school management and the community’s representatives.
“Field visit are very useful opportunities for us to discuss many issues with colleagues”, reminds Hoang Van Sit from UNICEF Banda Aceh office in Indonesia.
Different countries enrich the experience
“Lao and Cambodia have similar country contexts so some activities we have seen here can be adapted to our programmes”, says Siamphone Buakhamvongsa from Vientiane, Lao.
Many problems, big and small, unite the professionals tackling the issues of promoting quality primary education for all children in their own countries. For instance the challenges in monitoring the schools and measuring the results of child friendly schools seem to raise a lot of discussion within the group.
Well kept schools maintain motivation
All three schools in the schedule were above average, the model schools of the province. “We could have also visited the schools which are not so perfect. It is good to keep a critical mind when reviewing our work and to remember the constraints as well”, comments Martijn Engels from UNICEF Myanmar.
In the last meeting in Kampong Thom province, Hoang Van Sit, UNICEF Indonesia, volunteered to address the Provincial Education Office working group:.
“We have been very happy to see smiling children and the success of the schools in your province. We have been impressed to witness the groupwork activities, girls-friendly environment, clean and functioning latrines, just to name a few. The teachers not only fulfil their traditional role as educators, but exceed it by promoting child participation, and showing exceptional commitment and support for children”.
How to work together as a region
Adding field trips to the usual schedule of lectures and presentations seemed to be appreciated by the participants. “It is always the best reminder to see and interact with the children – they are the cause we are all working for, " sums up Annette Nyquist, UNICEF Beijing.
The Regional Education Project Officers' Workshop was held in Cambodia from the 19th to 23rd March 2007.