Salesian sisters: educational charism

We, as Salesian Sisters in general, are consecrated women in the Church, who live in community and while interacting with others we express our radical love for Christ and SERVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE in joyful simplicity. We nourish MISSIONARY OUTREACH that gives an apostolic dimension to our everyday lives. As members of the local Church we express our active participation in the life and times of our area. 

“We, Salesian Sisters, believe that today, our missionary passion is expressed in a conscious option for education as the way to Gospel citizenship. This requires that we be present to, and in solidarity with the young and the poor. It challenges us to courageously serve the cause of justice and peace and to bring about a more humane society, one that respects the dignity of each person. (Acts GC XXI) 
With a foreseeing spirit of prevention 
“In the steps of Don Bosco and of Mary Domenica Mazzarello we dedicate ourselves to those young people who are poorest, that is, to those who for various reasons have less possibilities of success and are therefore exposed to danger.
For Don Bosco, foresight in preventing, meant to educate, to develop ones ability to give meaning to life through positive experiences and to act coherently with decisions taken.

Foresight is to create educative relationships that would stimulate and sustain the interior strength of the young person and to guide him/her towards new stages of maturity, towards new experiences in the light of their Christian calling”.
(Acts GC XIX) 

Our way of educating 
Our traditional style of educating is evident in the way Mary Domenica Mazzarello lived out her educative mission by her example. Although this style of educating is not documented by her, it can be learned in the evidence of who she was and did.

One of the most important educational criteria was, for her, the priority that is to be given to the person: for it was through her fidelity to God’s plan, that she focused on drawing young people to a personal and unique encounter with Jesus. Her educative mission is realistic and concrete in the belief that work and education would lead to productivity. For her, to educate was the total giving of self in loving and joyful serenity that was contagious and consequently developed into a pedagogy of joy that reaches out to collaborate with others.

The long period of war, isolation and chaos has made life difficult for the most vulnerable members of Cambodian society, the children. In Cambodia children are the tragic innocent victims of the country's recent dramatic history and the uneven development of a new economy, political system and capacities to respond to basic human needs.
During the actual period of rapid change in Cambodia, particularly in Phnom Penh and its surrounding areas, lone children as well as entire families are finding themselves in an emerging situation of struggle. Many families were destroyed as a result of the mass killings and separations during the Khmer Rouge regime, which only completely ended about 10 years ago.

The population of homeless or extremely poor children continues to increase. The repatriation of Cambodian refugees has brought new residents to Phnom Penh. The difficult living conditions in the countryside are due to poverty, poor crop yield, continuous warfare and/or banditry in some regions. In addition, landmines prevent farmers from growing rice in many parts of the country and also affect migrations to Phnom Penh.

Don Bosco School is a good choice
We, Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, whose charism is the education of poor children and young women, take the challenge to venture into a formal, private education that responds to the greater need of educating the whole person, from the early formative years. As we already  have a Kindergarten and Elementary school in Teuk Thla, Phnom Penh, we would like to take upon ourselves the challenge of offering high school education. This would provide continuity of education, strengthening of the basic education integrated with character formation, and providing opportunity for future orientation, that is, to have the capacity to continue through higher education or to specialize in some areas by offering them a curriculum which includes skills training programmes thus making the dream of many poor children and youth, who have less or no possibility of receiving higher education elsewhere, come true.

Presently, Cambodia still has a high illiteracy rate where 76.25% of women and 45.98% of the men have yet to know their ABCs. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports has a strategic plan in place and the current National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2009-2013, stresses the importance of strengthening the quality of education as a high priority of the Royal Government of Cambodia. Education is recognized as a necessary and critical element for human development and poverty reduction (NSDP pg. 61); in line with NSDP, the Education Strategic Plan 2009-2013 (ESP) the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports (MoEYS) undertakes to ensure that all Cambodian children and youth have equal opportunity to access quality education.

Education is also central to Cambodia's National Poverty Reduction Strategy which guides the country's poverty reduction and economic development objectives. The Government has achieved significant expansion of primary education in the past decade with an overall enrollment rate of 84% for boys and 81% for girls (Asian Development Bank Report, 2010). The same source indicated that primary education enrolls the largest proportion of poor children where the gender gap is smallest. For secondary education, the enrollment rate drops drastically to 17% for boys and 14% for girls with only 8% coming from poor families.

Although the Royal Goverment and NGOs have instituted scholarship as a means of achieving higher levels of enrollment, there is still a substantial drop-out rate owing to high poverty (the parents need them to work to earn for the family) and limited future prospects and opportunities in terms of career and education. (UN ECOSOC Annual Review - Government Scholarship for Poor Students in Cambodia 2007) Studies and reports from organizations implementing scholarship (KAPE, BETT, 2009, NGO Report, etc) stated that there are still areas that need continuous improvement, such as: how to target the poorest of the poor, and drop out students.

The daily realities for both teachers and students in the Cambodian education system are very challenging. Teachers face inadequate salaries and this result in their having to charge students fees for services like compulsory tutorial classes and lesson print-outs. Students face inadequate facilities, large class size (60 students for one class), long travel time to school and high costs for their families. At the upper levels these problems are compounded by the need to pay bribes to pass the upper secondary level exams and to secure admission to universities.

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