In a small classroom in Tatouk Village Primary School 35 children between 8 and 13 years old are bend over their wooden tables. With painting brushes in their hands and a deeply focused look in their eyes the boys and girls are way too busy too make noise. They are painting post cards. Sometime the children allow interruption from their art teacher, who walks around between them.
Once a week the children in Tatouk Village Primary School have art lessons. The teaching is part of the Love Card project arranged by NEDO (Norwegian Education and Development Organisation). After the lesson NEDO takes the post cards to hotels and guesthouses in Siem Riep, where they are sold to tourists. “We partly do it because there is no such thing as creative education in Cambodian schools. But is it also a way to make money for the school”, says Ken Oishi from Norways, who started NEDO in April 2006. The money is used to subsidise the teachers and to improve the school in general. “The primary school is for example one of the only houses in this village, where there are proper toilet”, he says.
NEDO is also paying an English teacher who comes once a week “They are supposed to lean English as part of their curriculum, but there are no English teachers in this area”, Ken Oishi explains. “Teachers have a very good status in Cambodia. However, they are only paid from 10-35 15 US Dollars a month. It is especially hard to attract teachers to the rural areas. If it is raining they will stay at home, and during rice harvest they don’t show up at all”, he says.
Ken Oishi came to Cambodia On his way back from a business trip to China. “I planned to come here for two days. This is about two years ago now”, he says. “One day I was cycling in the countryside out side Siem Riep just to have look around. A man and a girl stopped me on their moto and asked me, if I wanted to see their school. I said yes. In the classroom there were about 35 student who were just sitting there waiting for a teacher. Then I realised it was me they were waiting for.
NEDO’s projects have today expanded from education to several other areas. “We have a project where we rent out bicycles for tourist in guesthouses. And then we are setting up water filters in the villages so people can have clean drinking water”, he says. “This year we have provided access to clean water for more than 5.000 villagers”. The water filters NEDO installs are designed to be used in rural areas and can be installed with easily accessible materials such as small stones and sand.
“A water filter costs 45 US dollars and can give clean drinking water for up to 20 people”, says Ken Oishi. The water filters NEDO installs are sponsored by Norsk Betongelementforening, Hårr Betong, Norcem, Unicon and Prefab. “The aim is, that all families in the villages should have one”. In January 2008 NEDO is starting a reflector campaign. The though is to make tourist sponsor traffic safety courses and reflectors for primary schools in Siem Riep. Ken Oishi is working complete on a voluntary basis According to him starting new projects in Cambodia is welcomed and relatively easy. “If you want to do something here, then you just have to do it”, he finishes. For more information about NEDO please visit www.nedo.no