Community gains recognition and encouragement for their school improvements
Mrs. Hong, 70, is the Commune Chief of Prey Mul Commune in Kampong Chhnang Province, located in central Cambodia. Despite her age, Mrs. Hong is very active in her community and has no plans to retire any time soon. In addition to her role as Commune Chief, she is now also a member of the School Management Committee at the local primary school.
Before the establishment of the School Management Committee, the community struggled to improve children’s learning outcomes at the primary school. The school enrollment was low, and repetition and dropout rates were high. Unfortunately, the school and student performance was not a priority for the local authorities or the parents and caregivers in the community.
An initiative started by the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in 2015 aimed to encourage school improvements by awarding annual recognition to the best schools, teachers and students across the country. These competitions start from the local level and move up to the national level. However, Prey Mul was never selected for recognition, even at the local level.
Mrs. Hong started to notice improvements at other primary schools in the area, and realized that her community needed to focus on improving the school environment and the performance of the students, or else they would fall further behind.
In 2018, with funding support from the Save the Children Korea, Save the Children started implementing the Education with Quality and Inclusive Learning (EQUAL) project in Prey Mul Commune. One of the goals of the project is to improve the accountability and performance of school management and leadership through the creation of School Management Committees.
Because of her leadership experience, parents and teachers elected Mrs. Hong to be the leader of the School Management Committee. She was happy to take on the work, and she personally thought it would be a good opportunity to make improvements at the school, and ensure that the school would be a viable challenger in the annual competition. As leader of the committee, her responsibilities include coordinating and organizing meetings, and disseminating school announcements among the community, particularly to the parents of primary school students. She also works to seek community input on the development of the school, and to raise funds to support students and teachers struggling with financial security.
Soon, a friendly air of competition arose amongst the authorities in the neighboring communities. There was a spirit of enthusiasm to improve the schools and outdo one another. This helped motivate the decision-makers and the wider community to contribute to the school’s development.
Mrs. Hong began to take action in the community. “I advocated to the children that were out of school to attend school,” explained Mrs. Hong “I also mobilized the parents in the community to get involved in organizing the school environment [so we could] compete with the other schools.”
Mrs. Hong has been working hard to raise funds for the school and improve the physical school environment, and support effective learning at the school. She is now more involved in the management of the school, helping to resolve conflicts between students, addressing cases of domestic violence that affect the students, setting rules for road and traffic safety at the school, and helping students get health services when they are ill.
“The community brings life to the school,” said Mrs. Hong. “Community involvement provides better learning outcomes for the children.”
Because of the improvements in the school environment, management, and the students’ performance and scores, in this academic year Prey Mul placed in the top two schools out of eight at the district level. Moreover, the school principal was recognized as being one of the three best in the province.
Although she is happy with these results, Mrs. Hong is still motivated to continue improving the school. “I want to [further] develop Prey Mul primary school to become a New Generation School*, to improve human resources and my community,” said Mrs. Hong.