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Photographer's Note

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This is a picture I took inside the only multi-grade classroom for the Vietnamese community that connects to the Chong Kneas Catholic Church. Maybe the actual scene is not that ugly but I am not a professional for a dark room without flash. Technically, this photo is worse than garbage I saw in Stung Mean Chey. Please forgive me for the value of it. I must confess that I don’t have any better exposure than this horrible one to post, in order to tell the following story — one more from my serial "the floating misery". Thank you.

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I shown this snapshot to my grandchildren and asked them, “Is this a beautiful picture?””No!”. “Do you want to be in this classroom?””No! We don’t see air-conditioner, it has boring and ugly color on the walls and on the roof” and ”No! We want to learn English using English, not other language”

My young relatives are correct. This is an ugly picture of the ugly floating classroom in Chong Kneas Village where one same teacher handles students of different level. No A/C. No ceiling insulation under metal sheets. No bright lights overhead. No textbook. No notebook. No pen nor pencil. No uniform. Students bring their own little green board and chalk in a plastic bag inserted inside the pant’s elastic waist.

For most of students around the world, going to school is normal. In Texas where I live, not only is high-school mandatory, strict rules forbid children under 18 without accompanied adult on the streets and in public places during school-hours. Otherwise, police would take them to station and summon parent to pay fine before taking student home.

On the same planet where we live, for Chong Kneas children, education is luxury and school is something very similar to utopian tales. In fact, most of them have already been included in family workforce. If any of them lucky enough, the student must then learn English as primary curriculum and hot demand, not history, not geography, not math. And their English language is fed by a Cambodian teacher who communicates to them in Khmer. It’s funny to witness their zigzagged learning that they call “language of money” and I prefer to refer as ”ETL” — English as Third Language. Who cares about a name in this floating corner of “third world”?




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