Imagine never having the opportunity to learn how to use a computer.....how do you think that would affect your employment options and earning potential?
Yet, many children in rural Cambodia are faced with this issue. Almost no Government schools in rural Cambodia have a computer for children to learn on. While some private computer schools exist, these are fee-paying. Therefore underprivileged children from poor families who cannot afford the fees, never get the opportunity to learn computing. This places them at a distinct disadvantage to children from more affluent families.
The Foundation for Developing Cambodian Communities (FDCC) established the Mekhala Learning Centre (MLC) in 2009. It provides free classes in computing, internet and English for underprivileged children and government workers. Courses last for six months and provide a comprehensive introduction to using a computer. The curriculum was designed by the local Cambodian staff and is educational, interactive and fun, designed to make children aware of the opportunities for learning that computers make available to them.
The MLC was established by FDCC following community consultation on what resources would most help underprivileged children. Many community members were interviewed by FDCC staff in the project's target area and they overwhelmingly expressed the view that the subjects provided by MLC would assist students to obtain good jobs with good salaries. This would in turn help their families and improve their standard of living. They believed that these subjects were very relevant to a number of jobs and that they would improve the efficiency of workers and would enable students to communicate with foreigners and increase their knowledge by accessing new information online.
To date three courses have been completed, with 173 students graduating from the MLC who now have a functional knowledge of computing and the opportunity to come and use the Centre's resources to extend their knowledge outside of formal classes. The MLC also includes a community library with over 6,000 books available. It is the largest library in the town of Prey Veng. The library sees approximately 700 visitors who borrow around 900 books each month.
The MLC's objectives are to:
• Foster a culture of learning and skill acquisition among children in Cambodia;
• Provide underprivileged children with access to learning resources that will increase their employment opportunities;
• Improve the quality and variety of skills of underprivileged children;
• Increase the rural communities’ access to the same jobs as urban communities;
• Assist the rural communities to shift to a skills and knowledge based economy that will provide greater long term wealth to the local people;
• To increase the communities’ access to information; and
• To build capacity amongst students, teachers and project managers.