Khyentse Foundation is helping 291 Cambodian monks receive education through a partnership with Santi Sena
The Buddhist Primary Schools Project was initiated in 2015, in Svay Rieng province, Cambodia, by Santi Sena, a Buddhist NGO. Santi Sena is dedicated to alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, and defending the rights of children. The project, which aims to improve the primary schools of 20 local Buddhist monasteries, across seven provincial districts, has four main goals: to improve the academic standards of the monastery primary schools; to organize monthly staff meetings to identify current obstacles and to brainstorm solutions; to offer scholarships to disadvantaged Buddhist youth; and to visit each of the 20 schools twice each month.
Santi Sena is working with the Cambodian government to improve the standards of the monastery schools by identifying the needs of the children, their parents, the teachers, and the school administration. Currently 291 students attend these primary schools. Glenn Fawcett, the KF representative who has personally visited the communities, says, “The young monks told us they want to get an education and also learn about Buddhism and become monks in order to get merit for themselves and their families. Several are orphans.” Glenn adds that the poor villagers are keen to see their children educated and are happy for them to get a free education in the safety of a monastery.
Funds from Khyentse Foundation are used for 1,141 text books; materials such as white boards, desks, and school decorations; and salaries for three teachers. KF has also funded scholarships to help 15 young monks continue their studies, alleviating some of their impoverished families’ financial struggles. In the most recent quarterly examinations, most of the centers had 100% pass rates, several had 80% and 90% percent pass rates, and only a couple had less than adequate results.
Santi Sena is extremely diligent in monitoring all of its schools. In conjunction with the provincial government, they visit each of the 20 schools twice a month, to check on the schools’ progress and to provide feedback and suggestions for the staff. According to Glenn, “One of the most satisfying outcomes is the vast improvement the program is achieving in terms of administration and quality of teaching. Through regular training of teachers at Buddhist Primary Schools, the program principals have set up processes that include time tables, teaching schedules, reporting formats, and teaching methodology. One center that we visited went from 15% to 85% prepared since the academic year began in June 2015.”
Another exciting aspect of this project is Santi Sena’s partnering with a local radio program, “Buddhism and Society,” which is hosted by the head abbot of Svay Rieng. KF funds pay for radio time, broadcast equipment, and materials for the program. Many students call in with questions about Buddhist points they have learned in school, or about Buddhist practice in general.
With the support of Khyentse Foundation, the Buddhist Primary Schools Project is substantially improving the lives of some of the country’s neediest people, while continuing to propagate the incomparable teachings of Lord Buddha. We hope that these young monks will grow into extraordinary scholars and practitioners who can help improve the lives of their fellow Cambodians, as well as spread the Buddhadharma.