Location and description of the area and community
The New School is located in Som Roung village, Sangkat Samrong, Khan Sen Sok, Phnom Penh. The village is 18 km north of Phnom Penh City, off Highway Number 5 which gives a good connection to the city and Preak Phnow market, the closest bigger market 5km away. Som Roung village is halfway on the road between Phnom Penh city and Oudung, the former capital of Cambodia. This area does not belong to the suburbs of Phnom Penh anymore but is more of a rural area. It lies on the border between Phnom Penh province and Kandal province. The village has its own school, elementary as well as High school since 2007. Som Roung Village has roughly 550 residents. There is no registered number of households or their inhabitants yet. Most people rely on farming and own land in order to make a living. Since a garment factory just out of Phnom Penh on Highway Number 5 opened, many women up from the age of 16 years have been employed as factory workers in order to support their families. Other common occupations in this village are small shops or food vendors. Families in Som Roung are likely to have a large amount of children. The closest computer and English courses are available at S.C.A.O., before the closest classes were offered at Preak Phnow market, 5 km away from the village. The nearest Universities are in Phnom Penh which makes it hard for some children to continue on with their studies because of transport costs. The income levels of Som Roung have improved, but still remain quite low, even though there are developments going on concerning secure housing and food resources.
When it was established/ Number of classes, type of classes and what is taught in the classes
The New School was opened in August 2011 after the SCOOP Foundation funded the construction of the building and it is accessible for all interested students. There is a change in classes and times every few months depending on the schedule rotation of the government school. In 2012 S.C.A.O. provided ten English classes at the SCOOP school in two classrooms to over 250 students. Lessons take place from Monday until Friday for every class one hour a day. The classes are divided into different levels.
|ABC Beginners||Alphabet and pronunciation of sounds with first examples of words. Orientated by the SOUNDS O.K. book|
|ABC Advanced||Extension of vocabulary based on topics and simple sentences. No|
|New Headway Beginner||Introduction into grammar and more complicated sentences, orientated on the New Headway Beginner book.|
|New Headway Advanced||Complex grammar and revision of different topics, orientated on the New Headway Pre-Intermediate book.|
|Conversation Class||Improvement of oral skills only concerning simple as difficult topics. Focus on role plays, conversation and discussions among the students|
Set up at the end of November, S.C.A.O. provides a conversation class at the New School. After the demand of some higher level students this class was founded in order to offer students the possibility to practise their English. As it is meant to improve oral skills there is no grammar taught in conversation class. It is aimed that participants become more fluent and lose their shyness of talking in English. Further, it is the goal to increase the knowledge of vocabulary so the students are able to apply it faster outside of school. The class consists of eight participants in average and we hope to increase the participant numbers in 2013. Since whether no teachers or students are free during daytime, this class takes place Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7:15 – 8:15 p.m.
The idea behind the name ‘conversation class’ was to let students as well as available teachers interact together through discussions and exchange of information about personal interest. As there are difficulties with general knowledge and understanding tasks, an open debate is not possible yet. Instead the focus is concentrated on role plays and introducing different topics such as “The world” or “Environment”. Two teachers guide the class, give support, teach and ensure the development of the attendees. Sometimes we are lucky enough that there are enough volunteers in the New School from time to time to introduce face to face conversations between students and teachers. Over all this class is a great example how people from different cultures and backgrounds can benefit from each other.
As a volunteer at SCAO 2, you will be living in picturesque rural surroundings and you will get well acquainted with Cambodian village life. The villagers are very friendly and the children will greet you enthusiastically. Very few speak English but sign language and learning a few Khmer phrases once you get here will get you far.
Staying in the village means you’ll experience the ‘real Cambodia’ which is far from the relative prosperity that you’ll see in the Phnom Penh area. Most children come from families who have little money and their parents are typically farmers. They have no prior knowledge of English before coming to SCAO which means that a lot of classes focus on teaching them the English alphabet, the sounds of the letters and the names of colours, animals and so on. Once the students have learnt the basics, they advance to other classes where basic grammar is taught.
The students generally tend to be young, and while the overall reason why they come to the school is to learn English, they also come because they like to play with the volunteers and be part of the different projects the volunteers are doing. They especially like doing creative stuff like painting and drawing and are very happy if the volunteers take part in that.
You will be living in the school which has rooms, bathrooms and a kitchen for the volunteers. The same way that life is simple in the village, life at the school is also simple. In your room, there’ll be a bed and a mosquito net. The toilets are a mix of Cambodian and Western toilets. This means that the toilet is a normal toilet with a toilet seat, but that you scoop water from a basin behind the toilet to flush. Remember that you cannot flush toilet paper anywhere in Cambodia – their sewage system cannot handle that. It’s a good idea to buy toilet paper in Phnom Penh and bring it with you to the village, or you can buy toilet paper in the local shop in the village. The showers are normal cold-water showers. As in most of the countryside in Cambodia, internet is not readily available in the village, but SCAO has made sure that there is a limited amount of internet available for the volunteers which they can use to check their emails and prepare classes.
Life in the village will be very different from what the volunteers know from home. The lack of internet means that there will be a lot of time for exploring the area, starting your own projects and reading good books without being interrupted by notifications from social media. The school has bikes which the volunteers can borrow to bike around the area, and the school also has a rooftop which offers unrivalled views of the Cambodian countryside. There are also small shops in the village where you can buy drinks, snacks and a few other things. The number of short term volunteers varies during the year so there could be anything from one to ten volunteers staying at the school. There is always at least one Headvolunteer from the German Red Cross staying at the school.
If you need to go to Phnom Penh or if you want to go there for the weekend, you can take a moto-remorque. This is how Cambodians typically travel between the countryside and Phnom Penh. It costs about 2000 riel and it takes about 1/1½ hours to get into the city. At the end of the weekend, you can take one back to the village as well. Have the long-term volunteers explain to you how to do it. It’s pretty simple once you know how.
To sum up, if you stay in the village you’ll experience the authentic Cambodia where life is lived at a slower pace, where people are poor but always ready with a smile for you. So if you’re willing to exchange your comfortable living conditions with the simple life the real Cambodia offers, SCAO2 might just be the right place for you. If you have any ideas for projects you would like to do, we highly encourage you to share them with us. We have had volunteers in the past who have taught the children how to use tooth brushes and who have distributed glasses to villagers with bad eye sight so if you have an idea already or think of something while you’re volunteering, it could potentially make a big difference for the students or the villagers.
Information and pictures on our facebook album.