The Professor Raymond B. Cattell School

After a life devoted to education and research, Raymond B. Cattell left a trust to help people facing poor or non-existent opportunities for education.

Growing up in England during World War I, he anticipated the need to “think globally.” After much consideration, Cambodia, because of its crushing poverty resulting in large part from its lack of an educated class, was chosen to develop a school for children. Cambodia’s educational infrastructure was destroyed in the 1970's by the Khmer Rouge regime, portrayed in the movie about ”the Killing Fields.” Under the direction of the ruthless Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge used every means possible to return Cambodia into an agrarian society by forcing city dwellers into isolated labor camps, relocating villagers, separating children from their parents, destroying commerce, and routinely executing scientists, physicians and other professionals. Only the few who could hide their credentials survived; merely wearing glasses indicated that a person could probably read and resulted in an automatic death sentence. An estimated 90% of teachers were executed and most schools destroyed or turned into torture chambers.

Cambodia’s future recovery and progress depends in large part on educating its children. The majority of Cambodian children live at a poverty level in remote rural areas. Their homes are without electricity or running water. For some, even a mosquito net to protect against malaria is a luxury. There are not enough schools to provide basic education. Many parents and certainly all the grandparents are survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, and as a result cannot read or write. They are eager to see that children have the opportunities that they missed. Typically their enthusiasm is passed on to the children who feel privileged to be able to go to school, which was manifested in the attitude of the students at the opening of the Professor Raymond B. Cattell School.

The following photographs were taken at the opening of the Raymond B. Cattell School on December 12 2007. The school is located in a primitive village called Vilhear Sour Chung in Kandall Province which is about a three hour drive and barge trip northeast of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.

Photo 2:
                  School Sign

As the sign indicates, the building is named the Professor Raymond B. Cattell School. The construction costs of the building were funded by the Raymond B. Cattell estate with matching funds from the Asian Development Bank and support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

Photo 1: School

The school is a concrete structure. It has four classrooms, a library, and a computer room. It serves three villages and is attended by 260 students ranging in age from seven to eleven years of age. The land was donated by local monks and after its dedication, the school was given to the community and has become a source of great pride. Funds from the estate will coverall all but basic operating expenses.

Photo 4: Street

Shown here is a street scene of Vilhear Sour Chung, also typical of the other two villages where the students live. Life consists of living at a subsistence level in one or two room, roughly built, wooden homes. Two or three generations crowd into these homes, with their water buffalos if they are lucky enough to have one. “Wealthy” families may own a bike or motor bike.

Photo 8: Speech

After kneeling before the monks for a chanted blessing and a showering of flower petals Dr. Heather B. Cattell, Raymond B. Cattell’s widow, is shown giving a speech in which she tells about her husband’s desire for people all over the world to have educational opportunities, and promising ongoing support for the school and its students. Her talk is being translated into Khmer and receives a standing ovation from the parents, grandparents, and village elders in the audience. On the platform she is accompanied by her little Cambodian foster daughter Rath Touch Leap, Dr. William Cody, friends from the United States, teaching staff, an interpreter, and an official from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.

Photo 12: Supplies

Dr. Heather Cattell is handing out individual gifts of school supplies. For many of the children these were the first gifts that they had ever received. She also presented basketball equipment to the school as a gift from the Cattell family, explaining that although her husband believed that children should study hard they should also play. One of the teachers mentioned that usually the only opportunity the children have to play is during school recess because when they return home their labor is needed by their families.

Photo 11: Class

These children just came to attention (which they did immediately and without prompting) as visitors entered the room. They are showing the traditional Cambodian gesture of respect. For most, it was their very first day of school which is why their uniforms are immaculate. However, since a child is unlikely to have more than one uniform they will not stay in this condition long.

Photo 13: Computer

A girl is looking at a computer screen. Because there is no electricity in the area the computer is run by solar energy. Soon she will be taught how to operate the computer, and as a result will eventually be able to make life choices that were unavailable, and undreamed of, by her parents. Along with learning to speak English, computer skills will be an important part of the school curriculum.

Photo 14: Leaving

After the opening ceremony Dr. William Cody, Rath Touch Leap and Dr. Heather Cattell are surrounded by children. Dr. Cattell notices that there are many girls among the students and reflects how this would have gratified her husband, since he was a strong proponent for girls to have the same educational advantages as boys. It is common for economically struggling Cambodian families to prefer sending their sons to school rather than their daughters.


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

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