Visit to Raymond B. Cattell School in Cambodia - March, 2011

By Heather B. Cattell

I made my second site visit to the Professor Raymond B. Cattell School in March, 2011.  I am happy to report that I found everything as it should be.   By all appearances the teachers were dedicated, the children eager to learn, and the premises and equipment well cared for.  On last count there were 207 students enrolled.  As in most other Cambodian schools, due to the shortage of teachers and classroom space, the academic day is split in two;  half the students attend morning classes and the other half in the afternoon.   The same four teachers teach both sessions.  Life in the village seems the same as it did when I attended the school dedication three years ago.

As is the custom when adults enter a classroom, the children upon seeing me immediately rose from their seats and welcomed me with the traditional Cambodian gesture of respect.  The happy smiles that soon came on their faces was due to their seeing that I was bearing gifts.  The Cattell family donated individually wrapped school supplies for each child, sports equipment for them to use during recess and maps for the classroom walls.

As I toured the classrooms I was impressed by the cleanliness and grooming of the children, especially since I have personally observed the conditions under which they live.  I was told that the effort that they invest in their appearance as students reflects their appreciation for the value education and the privilege that they feel for the opportunity to go to school.  I marveled at the immaculateness of their uniforms since it is usual for a child to own just one uniform which has to go a week between washings.  The washing has to be done by hand since there is still no electricity or even running water in the village homes.

The basic school curriculum consists of arithmetic, reading and writing in the Khmer language, English language, and computer skills.  Teachers are well respected in Cambodia and given my observation deservedly so.  They work long hours and teach under challenging conditions.  Their only teaching aids as far as I could tell, are chalk and a chalk board as illustrated in the photograph above.

In all classrooms the attentiveness of the children was most palpable.  The level of student participation was also very high as is attested by their raised hands.

Since computers are uncommon in Cambodian schools, these two solar powered computers are extremely valued.  Despite the humidity and heat they remain in good condition which is likely due to the tender loving care that they receive.  The computer teacher told me that they are cleaned with a feather duster at the end of each school day and carefully stored overnight.

I had the opportunity to talk individually to several of the children.  Some made a valiant effort to converse in English, but since I do not speak Khmer we had to communicate through Sokna, our Cambodian interpreter.  The boy in this photograph is sharing his hopes for the future and telling how his parents and grandparents, who can neither read nor write, encourage him to study hard and take advantage of this opportunity to go to school.

At the end of the visit I gather with the children, teachers and our interpreter in front of the school.  I noted with pride the plaque on the wall behind us, bearing Ray's name and acknowledging his donation to this life changing mission.


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