Nearly 500 children in remote rural areas of Cambodia and Myanmar are now receiving an education for the first time thanks to the fundraising success of last year’s Charities Day organised by the Head Boy and Head Girl of Bryanston School in Dorset. No less than £54,000 was raised for United World Schools and, following an intensive construction and planning programme, both schools are now fully operational and full of enthusiastic youngsters who previously had no access to any form of schooling.
Working closely with local communities and tribal groups, the charity’s new school in Phnom Ro Eli in Cambodia is the only one in the area and is now providing an education for 235 young pupils from five surrounding village communities. Close community engagement has also featured prominently in the success of the charity’s school at Shay Kin in the Shan state in the east of Myanmar. Providing an education in a country with over 100 different ethnic groups and languages is extremely challenging, but the Shay Kin school is the now the charity’s largest in Myanmar as a result of a significant new extension funded by the success of Bryanston’s Charities Day.
“When we began our fundraising drive, we were determined to help make a difference to the lives of young people in some of the most remote and deprived areas of the world,” says Cameron Robertson who was Head Boy at Bryanston 2018-19. “Having exceeded even our most optimistic target, we are absolutely delighted that our efforts have resulted in such important facilities that now lie at the very heart of the local communities – even more so given the extreme challenges posed by the current Coronavirus pandemic.”
“It is so gratifying to see the smiles of pupils in the videos and photos we’ve now seen from both schools,” adds Zeynep Koksal, Head Girl at Bryanston in 2018-19. “The Charities Day was a real challenge, but we had tremendous support from the entire Bryanston community. To know that so many young people are now learning to read and write and benefitting from proper education for the first time has certainly made all of the effort worthwhile.”
“Organising such an outstanding fundraising drive, Cam and Zey have helped to transform the lives of hundreds of young children,” says Sara Furness, Associate Director of United World Schools. “We were astonished but obviously delighted at the amount of money they raised as it has enabled us to develop a new and much-needed school in an area of Cambodia where a very fragile agricultural economy based on mango, cashew nut and rubber has severely stifled any opportunities for youngsters. And the major new extension at our Shay Kin School in Myanmar has provided us with the space and facilities to increase the number of pupils and open the school for Grade 6 pupils for the first time.
“Previous generations in both areas never had the opportunity for any form of education – a situation that has just perpetuated a cycle of poverty and deprivation. The enthusiastic support of communities around both schools has been overwhelming and it’s no exaggeration to say that the young members of the community can now look towards a much more fulfilling and brighter future.”
With little or no healthcare provision in such remote rural areas, both schools are also playing a central role in helping to raise awareness and minimise the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. United World Schools moved quickly to ensure preventative measures were taken in all of its schools. As well as further enhancing all washing facilities and delivering lessons on the importance of hygiene and social distancing for all pupils, the charity is also running regular educational sessions for other members of the local community to help minimise the impact and spread of the virus.
Once the current global pandemic is over, Cam and Zey are hoping to join other pupils and senior staff from Bryanston on a visit to Cambodia and Myanmar to meet local United World Schools’ representatives as well as pupils and teaching staff at the schools in Phnom Ro Eli and Shay Kin. Peter Hardy, who has just retired as Second Master at Bryanston says the School’s former Head Boy and Head Girl are understandably proud of their achievements. “It will be quite something for them to see and experience first-hand what a significant difference they have made and, in particular, to meet some of the local children. We will continue discussions with United World Schools and will organise the visit as soon as it is safe to do so.”
United World Schools (UWS) works in some of the world's poorest regions to give every child access to free education. It partners with local communities and supporters around the world to establish schools and teach the unreached. The charity has reached over 35,000 children across Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal, empowering them to reach their full potential and break out of poverty. For more information visit www.unitedworldschools.org.