Monday, February 3, 2014

Nurturing Young Minds

Back in December, I visited four villages in Kep and Takeo province to check out locations for new community preschools.  When our team got back, we finalized locations based on feedback from the community leaders and the number of kids in each area. Last week, we went back to these locations and saw the final phases of construction for each school. I could not believe it. Usually, in the field of development, you have to wait a while to get results so this was a highlight for me. 

Today was the first day of school! 100 kids will now be able to start preschool in their communities for free. Parents will not have to worry about transportation, materials or school fees. I am still in awe of how quickly and efficiently we were able to pull this off. I can’t begin to describe how excited I am about this. This is why I am came here. It is so rewarding to see this project come to life .

We have two more in the pipeline and will continue to expand if we have the support of new communities and resources to help fund the construction. You might be thinking how can this be sustainable. Well, one of the things I love about Aide et Action is that we don’t come in and try to be the heroes. Instead, we speak to commune and village leaders about their needs. We then come up with a plan of action where they are just as much of a stakeholder as us. They need to get community support, they need to find a teacher, they need to find volunteers to build it and they need to allocate a small portion of their annual budget for education. Once they accomplish these tasks, we help them with teacher training, parent workshops, we provide school supplies and we pay for the construction materials. The school is always called a community preschool, not an Aide et Action school. This helps the community leader in getting support for their citizen and it shows the citizens that they are part of the process.

The goal is to make education a primary and necessary component of every child’s life. If we can convince each parent of this through our preschools then they will continue to advocate for new schools with their local governments and the local governments will push the agenda with the national government and so on.

We are relying on the power of education. It’s ability to empower people because it is a fundamental precondition for economic, social and political development.

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