Young children stood along the streets with smiles and clapped to welcome guests who walked for the inauguration of Providence Primary School run by Providence Sisters.
"Today is an important day that the activities of Providence Sisters progress again which has been on hold for a long time," said Sister Anne Lucie Kim Nga, provincial superior of Providence Sisters in Cambodia during the inauguration of the school on May 4.
The bishops of Phnom Penh and Battambang, together with the Governor of Kampong Chhnang, many government officials and students’ parents attended the occasion in Kampong Chhnang city in Kampong Chhnang, about 97 km from the capital, Phnom Penh.
“Before the civil war, Providence Sisters had big schools to educate youth in Phnom Penh, Kep and Kampot province. Today, we reopen the school again but it is small with God’s plan for the poor families,” said the provincial superior.
Sister Anne continued saying, “The new school was established with the grace of God and from your generous heart.”
She thanked the donors who always support the nuns’ activities and also Bishop Kiké Figaredo, the Apostolic Prefect of Battambang who allowed the nuns to fulfill their mission in the Battambang Prefecture by opening the school.
She also thanked the authorities, teachers and parents who actively collaborated with the nuns and made the school run smoothly.
The primary school has three classrooms, Grades 1 to 3, located in a parish in the Kampong Chhnang area in the Battambang Prefecture.
Providence Primary School was completed in April 2021 and the enrollment began in November with Grades 1 and 3, with a total of 108 students including 54 girls. The school teaches science, social sciences, foreign languages, sports and dance.
The school has been licensed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports for five years.
Sister Bopha Rong, the principal of the school, said that the primary school follows the curriculum of public schools.
She added that students who pass from the school will continue with a government school.
"If students have a birth certificate, they can continue Grade 7, but if not, they can stop. They can find skills for them. This is our process at the present,” she added.
The nun added that the school includes Cambodian, Vietnamese and Khmer-Muslim children who were evacuated from the surface of a lake in Kampong Chhnang province a few years ago.
The government of Cambodia did not allow people to live on the river anymore, so those who are living must move their homes to the land.
“They used to live around water. After they moved away to a newer place, students do not know anything. Even Vietnamese people living in Cambodia do not speak their own language clearly,
Khmer people speak hardly Khmer and the Khmer-Isalm is the same,” Sister Rong confirms.
According to the observation of the principal, after studying for a short time, she found out that students have improved their communication skills, language and arithmetic competency, social skills and character formation.
Children avail the primary education for free and the school provides notebooks, and lunch, according to the principal.
At the same time, Sr. Rong said that the school also plans to teach adults who are illiterates and wish to study at night.
On behalf of the authorities as well as on behalf of the entire city leadership, Yin Ven, chief of Kampong Chhnang city, thanked the nuns and church authorities.
It is great to note all achievements that the Catholic community has contributed to Cambodia and its people, he said.
He added, "Today I am excited and thankful to see some of you flying from the United States to Cambodia to help Cambodia because the country has gone through a long war. We are thankful to all who help the country for its progress.”
Dr. Mai Khanh Tran, a chair of International Humanitarian Missions and a donor for the building said, “We are so blessed to be a partner with the nuns. Without them, it is impossible for us to build anything during this time. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the construction of the school building continued. That is amazing and it is a blessing for all of us.”
Bishop Enrique Figaredo, Apostolic Prefect of Battambang said, "I thank Providence Sisters who always have been active. They go out everywhere in the villages and find the need of people. I am glad that they do this to proclaim the gospel and work with the government to build peace."
He added that the school is a sign that nuns care for children lacking opportunities and poor parents.
On that occasion, Bishop Figaredo asked children to do three things: try to come to school every day and listen to their teachers. At home, do not forget to practice what they have learned from school and show it to their parents. And lastly, only knowledge does not enough but must be a good people who are honest, compassionate for others, thinking of the common good.
"I wish you, my children, to get bear fruit of knowledge and later we all work together to build a truly peaceful nation,” he said.
Before the civil war in 1975, the Providence Sisters had many large schools from primary to higher education in Phnom Penh, Kep, Kampot and Battambang. But due to the genocidal regime, all those structures were destroyed, including some nuns were killed.
Currently, the nuns are resuming their activities, including shelters for poor and orphan children who study at school, homes for children with disabilities, kindergartens and primary schools. – With inputs from Kagnha Keo
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