Thmor Sor village, Takeo, May 2019 - Chatter and laughter erupts from the classrooms of Thmor Sor lower secondary school in Thmor Sor village at Takeo province as the school bell rings to mark the end of the morning shift. Amid students exiting the buildings, school director Phuok Nouk, smilingly greets the boys and girls who rush past him to drive home. His school was built in 2003 and provides education to 468 students from grade 7 to grade 9.
Before March 2015, Phuok Nouk never heard of the term “life skill”, so when the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) invited local school officials to attend a meeting about a new local life skill education project for schools, he was eager to learn more.
The local life skill education project, funded by SIDA and with technical support from UNICEF, is a training programme that introduces a new learning approach to empower schools and communities, so they can run their own local life skill education. Lower secondary schools in 27 districts from Takeo, Siem Reap and Stung Trey province are the first one to pilot the local life skill project.
“Many of my students don’t have the privilege to go to university like I did. I owe it to them to provide additional skills for their future lives”, explained the former RUPP student. The dedicated director kept his promise. Only one year later, with the help of district officials, he integrated the local life skill education programme in the school’s curriculum.
Each week, students get the chance to learn about different social and career skills. While Grade 7 students focus on road safety, 8th and 9th graders learn about domestic violence and drug abuse.
Additionally, local experts trained the students on broom making, vegetable planting and chicken raising. Following the lessons, the children eagerly started to make their own brooms. The local broom maker was so satisfied with their work that he began to buy off their brooms to sell them. A part of the earnings was used to build a new roof and new toilets for the school. The rest was equally split between the students. Step by step, the business kept growing.
“Today”, Nouk said proudly, “only half of my students rely on money from their parents”. But apart from financial benefits, the local life skill education project also led to a change in students’ behavior.
“Teachers are noticing that students are more motivated to go to school and show more engagement during class. Personally, I noticed they become more honest and caring to people around them.”
For the future, Nouk hopes to work with more local experts. On his search for other skills, he focuses on what students are actually interested to learn, such as hair dressing and mechanics. “I already talked to a few experts, they really liked the idea of passing on their knowledge.”
Given the success and positive feedback from schools, teachers and government officials, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports plans to expand the local life skill education project to other provinces and on a school-to-school partnership basis so that schools can support each other.