A PATHWAY TO HIGH SCHOOL: THE UWS DORMITORY PROGRAMME
Our dormitories are designed for older UWS students who have no high school within reach of their village, but rightfully want to continue their education into high school and further. By building dormitories next to government secondary schools, we allow our students to continue their formal education and gain a high school graduation certificate. We sat down with UWS Dormitory Officer Nakcy to hear more about the impact of this programme, particularly on our female students.
Can you tell us a little bit about the UWS dormitories? Why do we build them?
The reason we build dormitories is that when students live so far away from towns they don’t have easy access to higher education. When we build dorms these students can change their living conditions and continue their studies. The second reason is for the girls.
Because fewer girls are able to attend secondary school?
Yes, due to concerns from parents about their safety travelling to and from school. When our dormitories are built this provides a safe space for the girls to live during the week so they can continue to study.
Do you know how many students UWS supports through the dormitories?
In Ratanakiri Province there are 3 dormitories, and overall we support 125 female students and 150 male students. We are currently building one more dormitory in a neighbouring Province.
What challenges do girls face in education and how do our dorms provide opportunities for girls?
When I go to the dormitories I always ask all the female students what challenges they face and they always reply with “none!”. This is because living in the dormitories is easy and safe for them. Also, UWS provides them with anything that they need, including sanitary towels so they can continue going to school on their periods. This programme really makes such a difference to girls’ education.
Can you tell us a bit about the hygiene education that you give to the girls in the UWS dormitories?
I take them sanitary towels once a month. After I have made sure that every student has a packet I teach them how to use the sanitary towels, how to keep them and also how to dispose of them. I explain to them the best way to use the products and not affect their health for example changing the pad often, every couple of hours. Most female students have encountered sanitary towels before, but some families just can’t afford to buy them every month and so the girls need this education.
What impact do you think these dorms have on the students, their parents and the communities?
The people living in the communities are very happy that there are dormitories being built so they can send their children to secondary.
There are lots of stories about students in rural communities leaving primary education to get married. Do you think that having access to dormitories will change this at all?
Unfortunately young marriages are still happening in the rural communities with children dropping out in grades 5 or 6, although the number is lower than it used to be. Dormitories can make a difference, if children stop studying altogether they are more likely to get married. It really depends on the students. If they fall in love and want to get married they stop studying, but dormitories seem to help girls focus their education.