Supporting a Mobile Learning Center

Sokhan Khut (left) with the brand-new tuktuk bringing education to rural regions of Takeo province
Sokhan Khut (left) with the brand-new tuktuk bringing education to rural regions of Takeo province

Robert Erdin supports as BOOKBRIDGE Fellow our youngest learning center in Cambodia. In this blog post he describes his first days at the Mobile Learning Center.

My start as a fellow for BOOKBRIDGE was rather different from what I had expected. My journey to Cambodia took 24 hours from door to door. Two flights later, a servere lack of sleep and a stopover in Kuala Lumpar, where I tried to sleep under a row of seats in the airport, i arrived in Phnom Pehn. I imagined my first official act being falling asleep in my new bed at the homestay, but I had never been so wrong.

Sokhan took me straight to a tuktuk manufacturer to order our new tuktuk. Owning a tuktuk is an essential part of the business plan we worked on over the last few months within the Capability Program that I am part of. This led to the set-up of the Mobile Learning Center. When it came to the question of how to increase the storage capacity compared to a normal tuktuk I came up with the idea of having a full sized bookshelf mounted to the back of the tuktuk. Those of you who know me will start to recognize a pattern there… I really don’t know what it is with me and bookshelfs in vehicles.

Children discover the tablet computers
Children discover the tablet computers

My main responsibility in the Mobile Learning Center will be to introduce tablet computers that were donated to us by SuitePad. The tablets will be available for free to all community members during self-study hours and will be used in-class for paying students.

Therefore, I did some ground research to figure out whether we could profit from other schools’ experiences regarding tablet usage. Together with Sokhan I talked to KAPE, an NGO in the education sector in Kampong Cham, to see how they use tablets in their school. They are in the process of developing an application to bring up literacy rates together with other tools such as board games, textbooks and, of course, conventional classroom teaching. Although their approach is too complex and exceeds our financial capacity we found our first partner KAPE. They will allow us to use their literacy application so that primary school children can improve their reading skills.

Robert (left) will stay in Cambodia for six months
Robert (left) will stay in Cambodia for six months

I also went to conferences and talked to more NGOs and the bottom line is that there are a lot of applications and concepts in the pipeline but nothing is established so far. So BOOKBRIDGE is part of the avant-garde by exploring the usage of tablets for educational purposes in Cambodia.

When the Capability team arrived in Ang Tasom, the pace of work picked up tremendously. Our first decision was, being the group of Swiss workaholics we are, to increase the working hours and get rid of the planned activities so that we can get our work done.

The week has been exhausting for everyone, but after emotional ups and downs, a lot of driving around, planning, cleaning, painting, changing plans and changing plans again we were ready to hold the opening ceremony for the Mobile Learning Center in time for the end of the week.

The participants of the Capability Program discuss on the progress of the learning center
The participants of the Capability Program discuss on the progress of the learning center

Large, colourful and decorated tents were set up, a lot of plastic chairs in rank and file. The same model of chair that is omnipresent in Cambodia. I have never seen them for sale, nor have I seen a plastic chair factory… but somebody has got to have gotten filthy rich producing them since there is one for each Cambodian, and then some. Anyway, there were not only plastic chairs but also a lot of officials from the provincial office of education, local schools, representatives of the Cambodian scouts, a ceremony host, a bunch of speakers and most importantly, many, many children eager to learn what’s happening in the mysterious room which was cleaned and newly painted the last two days.

Everyone, including myself, was very exhausted but even more happy we had made it in time: to set up and open the BOOKBRIDGE Mobile Learning Center. I am looking forward to the remaining time of my fellowship to see how the Mobile Learning Center will develop.