Our visit to a floating school in Cambodia

An early start today! We left Phnom Penh and had a rocky ride to a part of rural Cambodia to visit our first school, Ses Slab. This school is a floating school which moves during the rainy season as the lake it is situated on increases to four times its original size.

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School from outside – by Emma Devine-Lawson

Emotions were high! Everyone was very excited and felt uplifted. Despite it being a floating school, it was large in size and the classrooms were not dissimilar to those of the UK schools. The children were happy, healthy, singing and interacting with us. Everything felt well organised. The children were all in smart uniforms and were a large part of the also-floating village; people seemed to be involved in the school.

Inside the school - by Emma Devine- Lawson
Inside the school – by Emma Devine- Lawson

We divided ourselves into different groups to get a deeper insight into the challenges facing the floating community.

Paul and Karen travelled to the home of a 7-year-old girl who has been affected by her parents being forced to migrate for up to two months at a time to work in Malaysia. She is left alone not only to attend school, but also to care for her younger brothers aged 1 and 6, a huge responsibility for such a young child.

Magda, Anna and Aisha went to see an after-school club organised by an inspirational 12 year old who felt the need to support her peers by sharing knowledge learnt at school. We asked the kids about their dreams and aspirations for the future and found out that some of them want to be teachers, others doctors or police officers – sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Who did you want to be when you were a child?

Finally, Saj and Emma travelled by boat to visit three pupils with disabilities and their families in their floating home. Two were short-sighted and one had epilepsy. The children are classified as disabled because without treatment their conditions would stop them from learning and going to school. Two were aged nine and one aged eleven but all looked smaller because of lack of nutrition in their diets; they suffered from stunted growth. Without the IKEA Foundation’s funding they would not be able to continue their education. This funding has transformed their lives, giving them hope to fulfil ambitions to become teachers and doctors in the future.

Inside a floating home with Aisha and Anna
Inside a floating home with Aisha and Anna

So the long journey continued on the rocky road after leaving Ses Slab School. We headed towards Kampong Thom province. We stopped along the way for a bite to eat on some deep fried insects. Spiders, duckling still in their shells, small birds, chicken heads & feet, silkworms and crickets were all on offer! Two of us had a munch on some spiders, silkworms and crickets – but who was it?

End of day-two thoughts?
Having met some pupils, parents & teachers, we feel exhilarated and enthused to see firsthand that IKEA Foundation funding is genuinely making a HUGE difference to Cambodian children’s futures. We hope with the funding and guidance from IKEA Foundation & Save the Children this new generation of Cambodia can move on and rebuild their lives after the horrific late 1970s genocide.

Sajid and Emma with children
Sajid and Emma with children


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