Last week, Coco’s hosted a “Back to School Night” to raise money for the island’s elementary school. There were all sorts of bar games: a raffle, a quiz, and (most hilarious of all), a three-legged race. The proceeds were used to buy new school supplies for the students.
I hadn’t thought much about it afterwards, but a few nights ago, over a midnight beer with a couple of the Khmer guys who work at Coco’s, I got invited to visit the school to help hand out the new things.
Below is the classroom, which is an informal setup in the front of the scuba dive center. Every afternoon, the village kids (at least some of them) show up for school. When classes begin, the kids stand up and greet the teacher with a deafening GOOD AFTERNOON TEACHER!!! The teacher asks them how they are doing that day, and they respond FINE THANK YOU HOW ARE YOU? Then they recite the English alphabet and the numbers from one to twenty before sitting down.
That day, I stood at the front of the room with two other girls – Ania from Poland who worked with me for two weeks, and another British girl I didn’t know, to hand out the new supplies to the kids, who filed through one by one to get their new notebook, pen, pencil, pencil sharpener and tiny Angry Birds eraser.
I tried to get a normal picture of the students, which I didn’t exactly get. Or maybe I did, because in an elementary school classroom I suppose you’ve always got a scowling kid, a kid that’s falling asleep, one that’s picking their nose and another making a goofy face!
The teacher (above) is pretty remarkable. Like many of the locals on the island, he works a different job all day every day, with two days off a month – but still makes time to teach.
This is Ania with the boy she called “the biggest playboy on the island” because he was always trying to get the girls to pick him up!
We gave the kids drawing paper too, to test out their new pens and pencils. You know how all kids back in the US, at some point or another, draw a slant-roofed house with a door and two windows, and the sun in the corner, especially when they don’t know what else to draw? Well, the Koh Rong equivalent of that is an island with the sun between its two hills and fish swimming in the water. Almost every kid drew the same thing! The drawings above are faint, but look at the similarity between them and the picture below, which is the landscape they see every day.
I couldn’t spend too much time at the school on this visit, but I want to go back – the kids are really cute. And I need to see how their drawings ended up!