Education Gives Healthy Legs Education Gives Healthy Legs

By SeeBeyondBorders -

A little boy falls from a tree and seems to break his leg in rural Cambodia. Lying on the ground in agony, his friends gather around and look on, calling his name in concern, caught between paralysis and the urgency of the boy’s cries.

Time stands still. Breaths are held.

Eventually, a child breaks free from the gaggle of wide eyes and rushes towards the boy’s house, calling urgently for help. An older woman emerges from the shade of the wooden shack, listens, disappears, and re-emerges, plastic chair in hand. She follows the excited child at a quick shuffle. She is the boy’s grandmother.

SeeBeyondBorders gets a call and one of our Community Liaison Officers, Boumy, reaches for her helmet as she hurries out the door towards her motorbike. Arriving at the boy’s house she is met by the mother, grandmother, village chief, teacher and school principal. She is guided into the shade where the boy lies. He is on his side, with only a thin rush mat between himself and the floor. He appears to be delirious, his eyes are glazed, the occasional soft moan escapes him.

Boumy turns to the grandmother who has taken charge and says gently, “We need to get him to hospital”.

“We have asked the local faith healer to come and see him,” she says. “He’ll be fine.”

Education, what can that do for you? Boumy stayed with the family for several hours politely insisting the boy goes to hospital and trying to contact his father working in Thailand. Boumy is still in her mid-twenties and is now well past the boundaries of hierarchical norms. As it starts to get dark she needs to get home for her own safety, but is back first thing the next morning. The boy is no better and only now does the father, who has returned back overnight, capitulate and let Boumy organise for a taxi to take her, the boy, and his family, to hospital. It is a 60km drive into Battambang. There, at a hospital still specialising in trauma, with a history of caring for landmine victims, the doctor realises that the boy has actually dislocated his thigh and is able to reset it in a matter of minutes.

“He’s lucky,” says the doctor. “If you hadn’t brought him in this afternoon he might have lost his leg as the dislocation was blocking the blood supply.”

So one little boy is back on his feet, already walking but perhaps not climbing trees just yet. This hospital offers treatment, free of charge, to children of families in very poor economic circumstances: a fact that is all too seldom known by those most in need, or by those who families might turn to for help in their community.

Thank you Boumy, not only for saving the boy’s leg, but for your fine example of what caring can achieve. Caring is why we do what we can and it is what achieves change. Caring is what drives us to write about the real situation in schools in Cambodia and offer a set of quality teaching and learning in school (QTLS) initiatives that can address the “Learning Crisis” identified by UNESCO in the developing world.

Data from UNESCO (September, 2017) reveals that in Central and Southern Asia, 81% of children will not meet minimum proficiency levels (MPLs) in reading “by the time they are of age to complete primary and lower secondary education”, and that 76% will not meet MPLs in mathematics. The situation across Cambodia is probably worse.

Read our analysis of early grade education in Cambodia, and think about what can be achieved by caring. This is not just a responsibility for Governments, for International NGOs, for parents, and for teachers. This is a responsibility for everyone if we want to see the next generation standing tall on healthy legs.

Boumy, still studying herself, needs your help to address the crisis of education in her country, and to give more opportunities to the next generation of children who might aspire to be teachers, doctors or community leaders. Given the chance, these children will go far, and they will be carried by their learning.  

To read a summary our landmark report click here, and to access the full report click here.

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