In 2004, The Sharing Foundation created a high school sponsorship program. The elementary schools in Roteang village go to 8th grade and many children stop school then, going to work in the fields to help their parents.
The high school, Jayavarman VII, is eight kilometers up the road from Roteang village, and runs two separate sessions per day. Anyone who has finished 8th grade in the area can go there, but the regular school classes are immense, 75 kids in a class being not unusual. Textbooks are rare or non-existent, discussion or questions are discouraged, and the very poorly paid government teachers often do not show up for class. Available at the same school are “private classes”—this means the teachers, for a fee of about $5.00 per person per month, actually teach. The students have textbooks and discussions and the class size may be 20 students. The quality is obviously very different, but the students learn.
Sponsorship of a TSF high-schooler is $300 per year. The money covers textbooks, teacher fees, paper and writing tools, school uniforms, food at school, and transportation from Roteang village and back each day on the moto-trailer. The other important ingredient is that each child has a specific sponsor, to whom he or she writes four times a year. Sponsors in turn must write back to their students with letters of encouragement and family news. The positive effect of the letter connection is inestimable. To have one’s own foreign sponsor, who believes in you and encourages you, is vital—all previous experience led one to believe one was going to be a subsistence farmer or fisherman. The students come to see the “letters from America” carried back and forth on our regular TSF oversight trips as their chief motivating reason to work hard to make it through high school, and maybe even into university in Phnom Penh.
We currently sponsor 10-12 students for high school each year. If you would like to learn more or participate in this program, please email Laurie Simons at email@example.com.