Banbury head teacher impressed by remote villages’ passion for education during Cambodia trip

Tracey with some of the Pong Tek School pupils NNL-181213-170213001
Tracey with some of the Pong Tek School pupils NNL-181213-170213001

After visiting schools built in remote Cambodian villages, a head teacher said it was ‘wonderful’ to see children with a simple desire to learn.

Tracey Wilson spent over a week with the Independent Schools Association to see the work being done by United World Schools in some of the poorest areas of the country.

Tracey Wilson (top left) with teachers and pupils from Pong Tek School NNL-181213-170151001

Tracey Wilson (top left) with teachers and pupils from Pong Tek School NNL-181213-170151001

The St John’s Priory School headmistress and her party often travelled for more than six hours to reach some villages where the charity has built primary schools.

“It was amazing how much the communities want to engage and for their children have an education,” she said.

“They have nothing, they live in wooden houses on stilts and the school is often the nicest building in the village so they take a lot of pride in it.

“More than anything it was so wonderful to see children who really want to go to school and know how lucky they are to have that opportunity.”

Boats were often the only way to get to some of United World Schools projects NNL-181213-170141001

Boats were often the only way to get to some of United World Schools projects NNL-181213-170141001

Tracey was invited to go to Cambodia as the Independent Schools Association (ISA), of which St John’s Priory is a part of, has been specifically supporting United World Schools’ mission in the country.

She and Alex Gear, a head from a school in Surrey, travelled to Phnom Penh on December 7, and travelled to a number of schools in the Ratanakiri Province that the charity has built.

Often journeys would take a number of hours by 4x4s over treacherous roads before getting on a boat to reach the jungle villages.

Tracey said they were given some incredible welcomes, especially at Pong Tek School which the ISA has backed.

Tracey with some of the girls from one of the dormitories United World Schools built next to a high school NNL-181213-170201001

Tracey with some of the girls from one of the dormitories United World Schools built next to a high school NNL-181213-170201001

“We received the most amazing welcome, they done have visits from donors or anybody very often so we were quite the novelty so that was lovely,” she said.

One of the many challenges United World Schools faces is that the jungle tribes often do not speak the national language, Khmer, so schools spend a lot of time teaching it.

United World Schools only builds schools in villages that want them and train locals to teach, which Tracey said would help to protect the tribe’s identity and culture.

Recognising many children will want to continue their studies at high school, the charity has also built dormitories for the villagers to stay in, which Tracey also visited.

The head teacher said there has been a lot of interest in her trip from pupils and staff since she returned on December 15, so she hopes her trip will inspire her students.

The children at St John’s Priory have lots of fundraising plans to support United World Schools and Pong Tek School, including an auction at their summer ball.