on Vicky Dyer (Cambodia), 09/Oct/2012 14:27, 34 days ago
A friend of mine has been teaching English at the prison for several years. Some of his students speak good English now. He came to me with an idea. Some of the men will be released in one or two years and would like to teach English as a way to make a new start in life. He wanted me to help them with some teaching methods.I had been to the prison a couple of times, once to teach English to a group of women as cover for an absent colleague and the other to a party as a Peace Corps volunteer was leaving. My first visit was daunting as I did not know what to expect. I needn't have worried. Cambodian people are friendly wherever they are and always know how to make the best of a bad situation.So... first I went to meet the group, get to know them and talk with them about the responsibilities that go with being a teacher. It was interesting. The men are very open and keen to learn, their situations are very different.Last week I delivered the first session about the way people learn and the 4 skills. The drive there was the worst bit! The road to the prison is flooded! I rode pillion on a motorbike as my friend negotiated a route through. In the middle of all the water a street seller had set up his stall. People were taking the opportunity to earn money by taking visitors to the prison by boat. Others were just paddling through. Sandbags line the entrance but inside the prison is dry.A year ago I taught the women under a tatty wooden shelter. Since then, some organisations got together to build a nice room and library. It was here that we worked. It was very noisy as we were behind the visiting room. A man sat at the other side of the room knotting a fishing net. Small children were colouring in pictures and other prisoners were just sitting around watching. My students joined in enthusiastically as we sang a song, held discussions and carried out activities. I asked my students to order the four cards (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and then give reasons. For some, this was not easy, these guys are not used to thinking for themselves, prison life is very dull. Each group came up with a different answer though so it was a good discussion. They also appreciated how the cards were more flexible than a written list.A bell rings. Ten minute warning to return to cells. A reminder that this is no ordinary class. Everyone is very grateful for my time, the atmosphere is very relaxed. The doors were locked behind us as we left to negotiate the floods once more.