Meet Khan Ke -a desire to be an English teacher.


Monasteries have many roles in Cambodian society and while they are centers for spiritual teaching, they also help alleviate families that are struggling – for example poor rural families. A son may live at the monastery and save the family the burden of another mouth to feed.

That’s what Savong did when he was young and it is worthwhile seeing how his story has come full circle. Ke, pictured above shows a keenness to learn English and, at the same time widen his potential prospects.

When I read these stories my own heart goes out to the students. Born into poverty, they face a daunting challenge to break that financial drought.

My name is Ke, 27, a grade 10 student of Rokar Buddhist School, latterly living at Rokar Pagoda.  I was born on the 25 of October, 1990, in Roluos village, Roluos commune, Prasat Bakong district, Siem reap province, Cambodia. I have four siblings; my older sister is a fruit seller, selling fruit at Roluos market. I am the third child in my family.

The living standard of my family is hard up at the moment because of low incomes in the family. Every day my parents can earn a little money to sustain the whole family. My older sister always helps my mother to do house work. Every day I study at Buddhist School. After studying at Buddhist school, I spend my time learning English at Savong School Cambodia. I started to learn English at Savong School Cambodia in 2016.

I like English so much so after complete Buddhist school, I want to be an English teacher. I feel so strongly for them because every day they try to work for the whole family. In my spare time, I like reading books and chanting the dharma; I love my parents so much.

Interviewed by: Vann Salas

Student profile – Savong’s School


Chai Chun lives at the Rokar Monastery just 1km away from Savong’s School. 

My name is Chun, 26, and I am a grade 9 student of Rokar Buddhist School, staying at Rokar Pagoda currently.

I was born on the 9 of March, 1991 in Donteav village, Roluos commune, Bakong district, Siem Reap province, Cambodia. I have 5 siblings. I am the third child in the family. My older sister has married and she has one child.

My father’s name is Mon Thear, 54, and he is a farmer. My mother is Pheak, 52, a housewife looking after the house and the children. My parents try very hard to earn money for me. My grandparents can earn a little money to support the family but my family is poor because there is too little family income.

Every day I learn at Buddhist school; I really miss my family at times. Besides studying time, I take time to study English at Savong School Cambodia. I like English so much; I want to be an IT teacher. I feel real pity for my parents, supporting and taking care of my siblings.

Sometimes my grandparents call on my parents and me and I also feel sad for them because every day they try so hard to work for the whole family. I like chanting the dharma. I love my parents so much. I want to have a better life in the future.

Thank you Vann Salas for interviewing Chai Chun and translating.



Holidays in Cambodia – 2017

January 01 International New Year Day
January 07 Victory over Genocide Day
February 11 Meak Bochea Day
March 08 International Women’s Day
April 14, 15, 16 Khmer New Year Day
May 01 International Labor Day
May 10 Visak Bochea Day
May 13, 14, 15 King’s Birthday, Norodom Sihamoni
May 14 Royal Plowing Ceremony
June 01 International Children Day
June 18 King’s Mother Birthday, Norodom Monineath Sihanouk
September 19, 20, 21 Pchum Ben Day
September 24 Constitutional Day
October 15 Commemoration Day of King’s Father, Norodom Sihanouk
October 23 Anniversary of the Paris Peace Accord
October 29 King’s Coronation Day, Norodom Sihamoni
November 02, 03, 04 Water Festival Ceremony
November 09 Independence Day
December 10 International Human Rights Day


Lunch bar conversation

It has been a while since I have written, but I’m still here and still thinking each day of Cambodia.

The other day I received an unsolicited email message from a graduate student in Cambodia who wanted to say than you for having helped him (one way and another through employment and sponsorship,) get his degree.  What a wonderful thing to receive that message.

Then 48 hours later I popped into a lunchbar in Ellerslie, Auckland,  where I had a chat with the owner, a Cambodian, who knows about my involvement and commitment to Cambodia, and who has been weighing up how she, also, may assist her mother country.

It was a lively conversation as we shared experiences and shared also our dismay at how the burgeoning middle-class of Cambodia is ignoring the welfare of so many fellow citizens.  Cambodia has precious little safety net.  “But to ignore the poor just isn’t true Buddhism,” my friend said. She is going to be very choosy about who she supports in Cambodia – opting to help people in a specific village in the South.  She is worried by corruption, and the tendency by some people to grasp money intended for a whole village,  to keep for themselves. The gifts for monasteries are supposed to be distributed to the poor, she explained with a sigh. But that’s people.

But I wonder how many people over the years have been burned by this kind of greed that diverts a stream of goodwill and dollars into the pockets of the greedy.  Cambodia doesn’t make itself an easy country to love.

Cambodian Pop -celebrates a rural idyll

YouTube is a great place to explore the musical cultures of different countries. And the music videos tell a lot about the Zeitgeist of the nation. I remain fascinated at the way Cambodian music continues to balance the urban glam against the romantic version of the rural idyll – a simpler wholesome life for which Cambodia pines.

In its dreams.

Cambodia’s upswing in education spending to 2018

Savong Teaching

My friend Savong loves teaching. Here he is in full flight. His school, like those of other NGOs has helped pick up the slack created by government under-spending.

Investing enough in Cambodia’s future? I don’t think so. Until recently Cambodia’s state investment in education has languished. As a percentage of government expenditure, Cambodia spent until recently less than 12% of their total budget. This was ranked 140th in the world – but even then, the figure disguised the fact that the government income and expenditure in Cambodia was not all that high in any case. Education was getting a small slice of a small pie. Since early in the new millennium the numbers have improved slowly.

  • 2010   13.1%
  • 2007   12.4%
  • 2004   10.1%*
    *  Figures from World Data Atlas

Raw percentages are a blunt measure of course. In Singapore the percentage is around 20%, while in Japan, with its relatively ageing population and its excellent existing education infrastructure, the percentage is close to 10%.  Neither nation faces the steep challenges as faced by Cambodia in the past decade, however Cambodia, for a few years, has spent more on its military than it has on schools and teachers.

But that is changing. The education strategic plan, or ESP ratified in 2014 by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) set out an aggressive boost in education spending, taking the figure north of 20% this year, up to 23.1% in 2017 and towards 26% in 2018.


Government plans and budgets are notoriously subject to changes and reality checks. The world economy is flat-lining in 2016, yet the MoEYS strategic development plan has inserted an optimistic growth in GDP of 7.4% for this year, and on this basis projected to increase spending from half a billion US dollars this year – 2016 – to three-quarters of a billion in 2018.

These figures need scrutinising. Where will the dollars go?  Do they keep pace with numbers of enrolments and the laudable plans to introduce upgraded science labs and computer labs – or boosts to teacher training?

Yet the intentions are great, and certainly have flagged the nation’s recognition that it has a burgeoning young population who need investing in.

For more education facts and figures – click here.