From 2021 to 2024, we’re partnering with the Education Above All Foundation’s Educate A Child programme to support more than 5,100 children in Cambodia and Nepal to stay in school and realise their full potential. At each participating UWS school, we’ve established a School Retention Team which we’re training to identify and monitor the children at-risk of educational marginalisation and school dropout and to provide targeted support to these children.
Due to his low-school attendance and other factors, Manoj is just one of the students in a UWS school who have been identified as at-risk of dropping out through this programme.
Our Education Team developed an individual school retention plan to support Manoj, and conducted home visits to support his family in sending him to school regularly and catching up on the lessons he missed. The project’s various interventions to support children like Manoj under the Dropout Prevention Programme, including regular monitoring, provision of school supplies, and holding holiday & evening catch-up classes, motivated him to go to school every day.
With over 135 different languages spoken across Myanmar, the linguistic barriers to education which Poe Myat Noe overcame at UWS Wein Wa are far from unique. On occasions when UWS is unable to recruit community teachers who can speak both the local language and Burmese, we place experienced community teachers, like Poe Myat Noe, in these schools to boost learning of Burmese (the language of the education system) and support the children's education.
We're immensely grateful to teachers like Poe Myat Noe for their dedication and hard work.
What subjects do you teach?
As a fellow, my main role at UWS Jaisithok is teaching English and Maths. There are different kinds of students in the school and they each have their own way of learning, some are kinetic learners, some are visual learners and others are verbal learners. I teach students using different kinds and materials, utilising what we have around us. I use paper a lot of the time, making flashcards and posters, and teaching by playing games. In some schools in Nepal it is still common for children to only be taught theoretically, so I always try to make sure that my students are being taught practically and are actively learning. I sometimes make up songs because students learn much faster from songs.
What initiatives and roles have you been involved in at UWS Jaisithok School?
Beside teaching, I work with the school team. Ensuring that we work as a team, to continually improve the school. We have to work hard in order to make school better. We have to change the traditional way of teaching.
I have been involved in forming different clubs at UWS Jaisithok School, such as the girls' club and mothers' club to empower girls and mobilise parents. I also helped to form a club for the children to develop leadership skills, like a student council. The Child Club is a group of students who are active members of their school community. They have responsibility for discussing the school environment and they are leaders to mobilise student power. The Club helps the children to understand their rights and their responsibilities. There is also the opportunity for the students to talk to local government figures about their school.
An additional part of my role is community mobilisation, I've been doing home visits as home visits are the most effective way to mobilise a community. Home is the place where we get to understand the circumstances of each student. What problems the student could be facing, what things are blocking the child to grow. All these things can be understood from visiting a child's home and speaking with their parents and/or guardians. I do home visits twice a week where I speak to parents about the importance of education and support them to make a child-friendly learning environment at home too.
"When I first joined the UWS teaching fellowship I knew that I would be teaching students who had struggled to receive a quality education. What I didn't know was that I would get the chance to learn so many things which will be life time experience for me. Initially I thought only luxurious life can give satisfaction but the satisfaction that you get from the smiles of the little, innocent faces of the students - that can't be compared to any other thing. This fellowship journey has made me stronger than ever, and, importantly, happier than ever."
Mr Hout Veasna champions creativity across the six UWS schools which he oversees, encouraging children to paint, draw and learn through play. We spoke to him about why he thinks creativity is so important, and why he loves what he does.
Earlier, students used to go home in the lunch break and did not come back. The school environment wasn’t student-friendly, so they were reluctant to attend school. But now, after the training of UWS, and the presence of fellow teachers and mobilisers, a good environment has been created. The teachers are now motivated to be genuinely involved in improving the school environment. We have a periodic assessment system to evaluate students according to the predetermined objectives and this has really improved the level of teaching here.
In today’s world, education is the basis of development. If there is no development and change in the education sector, we cannot achieve any progress. First of all, we should make people aware, and make them responsible towards their community, home and country. That is the basic objective of education.
Without education, a person will struggle to find the right track and self-discipline. They won’t be able to separate what is right or wrong and what should be done. They won’t be able to get a perspective of the real world. So, education is very important.
There are currently 11 classes here at UWS Helawubesi School, with 159 students registered in total. This includes children from other districts, who walk here for up to two hours, because of our good teaching practices.
Thanks to United World Schools, we have been inspired to use English as the main medium from nursery level right up to class five onwards, and use government prescribed courses. So, the teaching has become much better.
More importantly, the community has been motivated to get more involved with the school - a great change in school management.”
At United World Schools, we work in partnership with local communities and governments, developing new schools over 5-7+ years and then gradually transitioning them to community and government ownership, so that they can become self-run Legacy Schools - part of our Theory of Change which is paving the way for a sustainable future for education. We've worked with the leading consultancy Education Partnerships Group to plan and deliver our schools' transition in a sustainable and effective way. This helps strengthen national education systems, avoids building a culture of dependency and empowers local people to be leaders... all whilst giving UWS the ability to open new schools in unreached communities across the globe.
Thanks to the hard work of the Roy community in Cambodia and the dedicated support of UWS staff and teachers, we've recently transitioned Roy School to become a Legacy School. This is their story.
“There has been a huge transformation in the Roy village since this school was established. Now, the students are more thoughtful and they have their parents’ support to stay in school more than previous generations"
- Roy School’s Headteacher, Mr. Chom Nop
Roy School: A Legacy of Change
Recently, we transitioned our first 5 schools in Cambodia – including Roy School – from being run by United World Schools to becoming Legacy Schools run by local communities and governments, with on-going membership of the UWS Legacy School community. Roy School is located in a rural village in the Ratanakiri Province of Cambodia.
We built UWS Roy School back in 2012, with 197 children enrolling in our first year. Since then, Roy School has fast become one of the cornerstones of the local community. In the face of challenges inevitable with introducing a culture of education for the first time into a community, such as near-universal illiteracy and sporadic initial attendance, Roy School now has an academic pass rate of over 80% for their students. This is a huge achievement for a community which has never had access to education before. Not only do children get a great education, but they also play with their friends, learn to grow food in the school vegetable garden, borrow books from the school library and more.
“There has been a huge transformation in the Roy village since this school was established. Now, the students are more thoughtful and they have their parents’ support to stay in school more than previous generations,” says Roy School’s Headteacher, Mr. Chom Nop. “I’ve noticed that my Grade 6 children (11-12 year olds) are less likely to drop out of school to get married than they were before.”
Most of the children in Roy Primary School are now going on to secondary school, to get a higher education and work to achieve their aspirations. 12-year-old Vithu has attended UWS Roy School from Grade 1 all the way to Grade 6, and he’s now going to continue his studies at Kes Chong high school.
Vithu has fond memories of Roy School; from reading the new storybooks that UWS stocked the library with each year, to learning to play new sports with his friends, to coming first in his class in Grade 4 and 5.
“My teachers, Mr. Sok and Mr. Nop, are my role models,” says Vithu. “Whenever I needed help, I could ask my teachers. They always helped me and gave me extra lessons. I want to become a great teacher just like them one day.”
With its strong team of teachers, an excellent School Support Committee and great school management team, Roy School was well positioned to transition being self-governed, becoming a Legacy School. The UWS team worked alongside the school, the Cambodian government and most importantly, the local community, to facilitate the transition process.
Our team worked to connect the school management team to the local authorities so that the school can receive annual funding from the Cambodian education sector, as well as support in all other areas. We facilitated introduction meetings with the relevant authorities, supporting and guiding the school throughout. We also made all necessary repairs to the school in advance, so that there would be less complications for the school management. For the first year after the transition, UWS' Education Officers will visit Roy School every quarter to support the team. Roy School has also become a member of the growing UWS Legacy School community.
The transition from a UWS School to a Legacy School can be challenging, but the Roy community came together for the students. Team UWS will continue to support the community staff and teachers as they take the full running of the school into their capable hands. We have no doubt that they will continue to inspire students and transform their own community for years to come.
True change takes time, dedication and the hard work of entire communities. The Roy village have taken the support of UWS and run with it, with children like Vithu right at the forefront of a transformation which will be felt for generations.
In mid-March, schools in Cambodia were ordered by the government to close. After being closed for five months, the Cambodian government decided in September that it was safe to reopen the schools.
With this good news, Mr Sombo and his team in Cambodia set about preparing for the children to return. They bought plenty of PPE, and bought everyone their own water bottle to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. They also made sure that every school had facilities where children, teachers, and other members of the community could wash their hands.
With the additional PPE, and the introduction of a shift system in school to make sure social distancing could be achieved, Mr Sombo and his team were excited to see the children return to school. On the 7th of September, the schools opened their doors to welcome back the children, but in one school, only just over half of the children returned. So Mr Hy Sombo hopped on his bike to find out why, and to bring every child back to school.
"At the beginning of the school reopening process, we got about 60% of children returning back to school. We continued to monitor why there were only so few children who came back."
- Mr Hy Sombo
Working with the teachers and staff members at Som school and others in the community, Mr Hy Sombo travelled around the village to find out why the children weren’t coming back to school. He and his team found that some of the children had fallen ill during the school closure from other diseases which spread easily during the rainy season, such as dengue fever and malaria, and they are working to bring healthcare to these children.
Other students had been asked to help their parents with farming and other activities to keep their families out of poverty. These families needed support and understanding for the long term benefits of education.
There were also issues with the new school shift system which allowed social distancing, as the students were only in school for a couple of days a week. "Students were not so good with remembering which days of the week are their turn to go to school," says Mr Hy Sombo.
Mr Hy Sombo drove from house to house on his motorbike to personally invite each child to return to school, and met with the village chief to help encourage families to send their children back to school. Through his determination, 70% of students returned to Som school in September - an increase of almost a quarter of the entire school.
But as with all things this year, there were more surprises around the corner. Due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in the capital city, Phnom Penh, schools in Cambodia have once again been ordered to close this December.
Thankfully, Mr Sombo and our other Education Officers around Cambodia, Nepal and Myanmar are working tirelessly to overcome these challenges. They continue to encourage children to engage in distance learning, and make sure that their passion for learning isn’t dampened by their time away from school.
Our newest teacher in Myanmar, Moh Moh Lwin, shares her story with us.
Do you remember your favourite teacher, and the impact they had on your life? Moh Moh Lwin became a teacher because she knows how important good teachers are to a child. For Moh Moh Lwin, every one of her students is important. Her first priority in her new role was to get to know each child individually. She says:
“This is a very new village where people migrate from different places. Even though all of the children are Lahu [ethnicity], they have different cultural practices and beliefs. As a teacher, I had to understand each child and their family so that the school can provide a familiar environment for the children.”
- Moh Moh Lwin
Moh Moh Lwin is from the Akha tribe, so she understands what it is like to live as an indigenous person. Her family speak the Akha language, which has no written form and is not spoken widely outside of her community. It was important to Moh Moh Lwin to learn other languages so that she could communicate with the wider world and understand her teachers at school.
Now, as well as Akha, Moh Moh Lwin speaks Lahu and Burmese, the Myanmar national language. This means she can translate the national curriculum into the same language her students speak, while teaching them Burmese, so that they can have the same opportunities she does.
As a UWS teacher, she receives regular visits from her designated Education Officer – an education specialist who supports teacher training. She is enjoying regular development sessions, saying: “I am getting a lot of new knowledge, skills and experiences.”
It’s not an easy time to be a teacher. As schools are still closed in Myanmar due to the coronavirus pandemic, Moh Moh Lwin is providing flexible education. This includes holding socially-distanced group sessions outdoors and going house-to-house to deliver learning resources and check-in on student wellbeing. Moh Moh Lwin is taking this in her stride. She says: “I am very busy but very happy.” Welcome to the team, Moh Moh Lwin!