Last month we began our new English semester at HHA, after 89% of our students passed their exams (a big improvement on previous semesters). Some of our students from the previous semester didn’t return, as we changed our operating hours from 8am – 5pm, closing two hours earlier. When Human and Hope Association first began in 2011, it was open from 5pm – 7pm each evening, as it was entirely volunteer run. As time has progressed, we opened day classes and were able to recruit new students to be taught by our full time staff. We made the decision to close at 5pm for a number of reasons. Firstly, our students had complained of being harassed by villagers at our pagoda and on their ride home when they left class between 6pm and 7pm. The safety of our students and staff is very important to us, and we wanted to ensure our students are leaving our school while it is still light out, as many students have to ride their bicycles up to 4km home. Secondly, the numbers in our after 5pm classes had been dwindling, and there weren’t enough students (apart from one class) to justify holding classes, as we have a 10 student minimum and 18 student maximum rule. Thirdly, as most of our staff members are sponsored to study at University or English school, there was only one staff member who would be able to teach after 5pm, and his English is limited so he can only teach the lower level classes, which are held in the daytime due to the young ages of the students. So, while we lost some students who were unable to study at other times due to their extra classes at public school, we were able to move a few of those students to our new 11am – 12pm class, which we established after reducing staff lunches to one hour (which are now provided for them, thanks to our monthly donors).
We also recruited many students, bringing our total English students to 122, with 58 boys and 64 girls. Twenty-three of these students receive Opportunity Scholarships from us, as they are classified as Poor Level One – Three. Several of our new Opportunity Scholarships have never been to school, as their parents/guardians haven’t registered them for various reasons. Our Education Manager, Chhalin, identified that these students would need Khmer language skills to progress in life, and decided to create a Khmer language class for six of our Opportunity Scholarship students. Chhalin and our Community Manager, Thai, visited the parents and guardians of our students, and after explaining the importance of public school education, asked the caregivers to sign contracts promising to enrol their children in public school in October. These students now study with our new English Teacher, Seyha, and Chhalin, each day. It is a challenge for these students who have never been educated to sit down and pay attention, however two of the students, a brother and sister agreed 13 and seven respectively, fell into the pattern immediately. The other students are slowly but surely improving their behaviour, and everyones attendance is regular. Their teachers are using fun and interactive methods to try to ease them into learning. Given we also teach Khmer language to our preschool class, we already had plenty of resources, so this program has cost HHA nothing apart from the teachers salaries. Our friends at the Shinta Mani Foundation have donated school starter packs for all six students, who will receive them when they complete their Khmer classes and begin public school. This has been a great motivation tool for the students to learn, as they are very excited to be able to wear school uniforms.
We now also open our library on Sunday mornings for three hours, and although very few students attended to begin with, word has now spread, and we have around 15 – 20 students visiting the library each Sunday. Our Movie Class which has always had around 2 – 4 students attend each week, now has a regular attendance of 7 – 9 students, as a few of our students are now 13 and able to attend. Furthermore, Chhalin has been asking students for feedback about our education program so he can identify our weaknesses and how we can improve.
So, as you can see, we are making great progress with our education programs at Human and Hope Association, with more progress to come!