We started our Preschool Program in March with ten students and two Teachers. These students were recruited from the surrounding community, and are classified as Level One and Level Two Poor. During the first week, there were second thoughts about whether our staff and Association had the ability to run a program for the three – five year olds, however as the weeks passed, the ability of Teachers Samen and Chhalin grew immensely.
The initial idea was to have a structured one month curriculum as a trial, which included Khmer, play time, movies, art, story time and morality. After about two weeks, we realised this wasn’t going to work, and Samen and Chhalin started working on a flexible daily schedule. Nowadays, the students arrive by 8am, and start the day off with role call. They then head outside and wash their hands and brush their teeth, using the correct technique we learnt from JWOC’s Hygiene Workshops. It is then time to learn Khmer – the students have been learning so well that they are now tackling the vowels! – followed by some toy time. They then learn more Khmer, and watch a cartoon in English for fifteen minutes. This is followed by a story or a Morality lesson, where they learn about topics such as road safety, how to be a good student, and hygiene. On Fridays they receive a snack of soy milk. The class finishes at 10am, when the students parents or older siblings come and take them home.
The transformation we have seen in our students has been incredible. Chhalin and Samen often proudly talk about the day when the students learnt to use chalk for the first time with their individual chalkboards, and when they learnt to sing a song in Khmer, and when the youngest student managed to follow instructions after two months of trying. The Teachers have been proactive in thinking of ways to improve the program, and their compassion for each of the students really shines through in their teaching.
One reason behind starting this program was to get the students actively engaged in activities. Unfortunately many children in our community are neglected by their parents who have to work very hard all day just to make ends meet, so young children either have to go to work with their parents, stay at home unsupervised, or work themselves. By putting these students into Preschool every day, they are under the supervision of good role models and are less likely to form bad habits or attitudes. Another purpose was to show the students, but especially their parents, the importance of education. Three of our students are due to start Primary School in October, so our Community Liaison will be working closely with the students parents to ensure they are enrolled. We will then be looking to recruit more students, however we are unsure how to deal with this logistically, as the new students would be months behind our current students in their behaviour and knowledge.
We would like to thank our donors who fund this program, as well as our friend, Karen, who provides us with much wisdom, advice and resources to ensure we run this program as effectively as possible!