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CAMBODIA: Don Bosco Kep Develops New Kindergarten Program

(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Kep, located in Kep province in Cambodia, opened a new kindergarten program in October 2014 that is currently providing early childhood education to 30 students between 3 and 6 years of age who come from local and expatriate families living in and around Kep City. The program was started as a way to expand the primary and secondary educational programs available on the campus of the Don Bosco Technical School in Kep.

Don Bosco Kep provides basic, secondary and technical education to poor youth living in the Cambodian provinces of Kep, Kampot, Takeo, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri. The organization’s educational and social development programs give special attention to children and young people from ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, orphans and at-risk youth in danger of becoming victims of human trafficking, labor exploitation or other abuses and aim to help students break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities.

A branch of the Don Bosco Children Fund is operated out of Don Bosco Kep and assists poor youth between the ages of 6 and 15 who are either unable to go to school or have had to drop out due to poverty. Called the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund, youth not only receive support to continue their education, they also to receive a monthly assistance package consisting of goods and cash. Social workers ensure that youth make progress and remain in school and those with special aptitude are further supported and encouraged to pursue college coursework.

In a country where less than half of children finish primary school, more than 50,000 children have received the encouragement and support needed to complete an elementary education through the Don Bosco Children Fund since its inception in 1992. The new kindergarten is an extension of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund and works to educate children who might not otherwise have access to schooling.

The new Don Bosco Kep kindergarten is located in a child friendly environment on the technical school campus and is surrounded by a colorful playground and many trees. The stimulating learning environment helps prepare children to go on to primary school. With a school day from 8 a.m to 4 p.m., the program consists of English language, basic numbers and counting lessons and includes games, arts and crafts. The kindergarten strives to be a safe, comfortable environment where the children can develop their social, academic and physical skills.

“Many parents in Cambodia did not have the same opportunities for education as their children do today so they do not see staying in school as a priority, particularly when many children have been forced to work to bring in extra money for the family,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth need the extra support to stay in school and get an education. Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Kep provide that much needed support and stability to help youth achieve.”

The Don Bosco Kep Kindergarten is still in its early phases of development. Many activities take place in the outdoor kindergarten area while the indoor classroom is used solely for academic lessons. The children nap in a community building not originally designed to be a classroom. Plans are underway to create new classrooms to allow for smaller class sizes that encourage better concentration, provide fewer distractions and enable teachers to provide more personal attention.

Once new classrooms are built, the larger space will protect children from the heat and create additional exhibition space for educational posters and student artwork while allowing for storage of teaching materials. In addition, the program is planning to build a new bathroom with showers the children can use if necessary. The goal of the new construction is to establish an efficient and comfortable kindergarten environment for children to learn, grow, thrive and reach their full potential.

Cambodia has a long history of violence that has resulted in a quarter of Cambodians living in poverty and surviving on less than $1 per day, according to the World Bank. About 80 percent of the country’s population resides in rural areas and has limited access to education, healthcare and other public services.

Today, close to a quarter of Cambodians over the age of 15 are illiterate. With very little access to education, poor youth find it especially challenging to break the cycle of poverty. To provide youth with greater opportunity, Salesians in the country operate 45 schools in poor, rural villages through a partnership between Salesian Missions and the Ministry of Education. In addition, Salesians operate seven vocational training centers that impart much needed job skills.



Don Bosco Cambodia

World Bank – Cambodia