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Purses opened for Cambodian school

01 Feb 2017

A team of Macquarie staff and clients from Hong Kong recently travelled to Cambodia with non-profit organisation Samaritan’s Purse to view the building of a school they helped fund.

With matching from the Macquarie Group Foundation, the group raised $A250,000 towards the school, which is in one of the poorest rural areas of Cambodia.

It is the second year a group of Macquarie staff and clients have taken part in this initiative and Macquarie employee and Samaritan’s Purse fundraiser Matt Nacard has previously visited Cambodia with the charity to identify the best location for the new school, which is expected to open in a few months.

Samaritan’s Purse has found that one of the key transition points in the Cambodian education system is when students move from primary to middle school. Typically if a child can’t read by the end of year 6, they will likely drop out as for a poor family it makes more financial sense for that child to work rather than investing in further education.

The charity’s survey of 11 schools in the Beanteay Meanchey Province found that 56% of students in year 6 were functionally illiterate in Khmer. However, following its building of Kauk Prech Primary School in the province, and implementation of a range of literacy and livelihood programs, the entire student body’s literacy has improved. After one year, all 22 students in year 6 went onto the local middle school, with one Year 6 student last year also winning the Provincial Spelling Bee competition.

The school has also been evaluated by the Provincial Office of Education for management, quality teaching and community involvement, now ranking second highest in the province. It has become a model school for the area and Samaritan’s Purse is in the process of also extending the middle school to make room for rapid enrolment growth.

“Spending time with these kids was one of the most grounding experiences of my life,” Matt Nacard said. “To think they have nothing except the clothes they are wearing, a small bag, a school work book and something to write with but at the same time can be cheerful, optimistic and so willing to learn is humbling to say the least.”

Since returning, the Macquarie group has subsequently raised further donations to build a library at the new school.

Image caption: Saskia Nacard (middle), one of the Macquarie trip attendees, with local students from the school being funded.