Dec 1, 2013

Crumbling classrooms need rebuilding

The Sharing Foundation’s main goal for 2014 is to replace a collapsing school building.
Category: Cambodia Update
Posted by: Sally Stokes

Crumbling school building in Roteang villageThe Sharing Foundation’s English School classes have been held in the Roteang village school since 2001. During the typical school day, the village uses the three buildings on the campus to teach its elementary students. After school, TSF leads English classes in the same buildings. Unfortunately, there is now a school building in an extremely unstable condition and the village lacks the resources to rebuild it.

The English School is one of our most valued programs, serving 450 students   grades 5 through 12. The young people voluntarily come to classes five evenings a week, all year round, after their regular school day, to learn English. They do this because they know that the ability to speak and understand English will enable them to procure much better employment than they might otherwise obtain.

Our English School has thrived and continually improved under the direction of Mam Sary, its head. The students are working hard, scoring well on standardized tests, and continuing their educations. Three of our current English teachers were once our own sponsored students in the school, graduated from the Institute for Foreign Language of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the most prestigious university in Cambodia.

TSF has always contributed to the physical upkeep of theRoteang Village school buildings and grounds in exchange for the use of its facilities. Normally, this is a small yearly expense, covering painting and the replacement of desks or rotting shutters. However, back in 2004, TSF replaced one of the three school buildings because it was collapsing and unusable. We now find ourselves in a similar situation.

The school building in question houses four classrooms and is buckling as a result of rotting framework. Newer buildings in Cambodia are constructed with steel frameworks, but the older ones, like this school building, were built with wooden beams. Over time, those beams have rotted because the stucco they abut remains damp in the wet Cambodian climate.

Cracks in the wall are clearly visible from insideOne classroom in the building, that closest to the main road, has not been used for some time because of the danger that it might collapse. There are large cracks in the walls through which sunlight enters from the outside. That room is currently used only for storage.

To get a better sense of the issue, we invited Mr. Huk, the architect who built our orphanage buildings, to give us his opinion of the building structure. He reported that not only could the classroom on the end collapse, but there’s a real danger that such an event could bring down the classroom next to it, which is currently in use. Because the same degradation will happen to the rest of the building over time, Mr. Huk recommended that the entire building be torn down and rebuilt using steel framework.

The architect also suggested creating symmetry with the building opposite it on the small campus by changing the alignment of the new building and adding one classroom. Along with replacing the room being used for storage, that would mean two new classrooms, allowing both the village and TSF to expand the number of students they can serve.