In many Southeast Asian countries, access to reading material in marginalised communities is still very limited. This is particularly the case in Cambodia, where 79% of the population lives in rural areas, and access to libraries and books is still detrimentally low. The adult literacy rate is 73.9%, and the functional literacy rate – the rate at which the literacy can actually come into use – was estimated to be less than 40% by UNESCO.
Aide et Action, an international NGO that has been active in Cambodia for years, had proposed to expand its literacy programmes in villages where children are often unable to go to school. There are many reasons why these children are not schooling — the most common among them are the nearest school being too far from home, and their parents being too busy working to send them to schools. The HEAD Foundation is providing a grant to Aide et Action to provide solutions to deliver education contents to more of these children.
A project manager from he THF visited Aide et Action’s worksite in Kandal Province, about two hours away from Phnom Penh, in March 2017. In a village off the beaten track was a school with teachers and students familiarising themselves with tablet computers filled with learning materials. The tablets are part of Aide et Action’s literacy programmes in which teachers are trained to use tablet computers to access teaching materials. Contents in these tablets can be enriched and upgraded remotely via the mobile network whenever new materials become available. Similarly, students are given tablet computers to learn through interactives games and quizzes. Our project manager described such learning tools as “bright, colourful and musical,” and therefore attractive to young learners.
Children hear the tuk-tuk library’s music from far away. Their reaction was pretty much the reaction to an ice cream truck…
The Foundation’s grant will also go towards the purchase of two additional mobile libraries – ‘tuk-tuk libraries,’ as they have come to be known. Currently, a tuk-tuk library goes around three or four villages everyday in the Kandal Province to give children a chance to access books . “Even if they can’t read, pretending they can read already socialises them into the process,” our project manager explained.
Children hear the tuk-tuk library’s music from far away. “Their reaction was pretty much the reaction to an ice cream truck,” is how our project manager described the children’s joy. Running towards the books and the librarian (one accompanies the tuk-tuk every time), the kids are excited for the two books that they can borrow per visit.
The Foundation will be continue to support the deployment of these tuk-tuk libraries in three countries – Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos – hoping for this ice-cream truck effect to be savoured by more children in the rural communities of Southeast Asia.