LOCATED IN KAMPONG CHAM PROVINCE IN CAMBODIA, THE VILLAGE OF SVAY KHLEANG IS HOME TO THE COUNTRY’S LARGEST COMMUNITY OF CHAM, CAMBODIA’S ETHNIC MUSLIM MINORITY.
Large family size, annual flooding and reliance on declining fish harvests have contributed to pervasive poverty and difficulty overcoming the devastation wrought by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
Cham children are faced with their own unique challenges. Despite the location of a public primary school in the village and a secondary school nearby, twenty percent of children in Kampong Cham province will never attend school. Many are periodically taken out of school to help with farming, fishing and childcare. As native Cham speakers, those who attend school often struggle to adapt to the Khmer language used in formal primary education and rarely encounter Cham-speaking teachers. Although 50% of Cham children complete primary school, only approximately 12% continue on to secondary school and less than 1% enroll in university where their lack of exposure to computer technology and English compound the challenges.
The Spring of Hope School seeks to support educational success for the children in Svay Khleang and to increase their opportunities to overcome entrenched generational poverty. As a free English language study and computer literacy Educational Resource Center, with a focus on the Cham minority children and youth, the program incentivizes families to keep children in school longer. The school serves 250 students in two English classrooms, 40 students in one computer room and the community at large in the library. We hope that the project will serve as a model for similar programs in rural areas throughout Cambodia.
In 2015 the Spring of Hope School provided its first full tuition scholarships to two graduates of the program to attend university in Phnom Penh. This program will be extended to ta least one outstanding student from the Spring of Hope School every year.