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Cambodia Poor Get Free English Classes

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Download A slum area around an abandoned railway line on the outskirts of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh is home to around four thousand poor families.

There is high drug and alcohol abuse here.

But as Sorn Sarath reports there is also a successful free English school here.


There are hundreds of small houses made of plywood on either side of an abandoned railway line.

Just three meters from the track is a small wooden shack where local children come to learn English.

Inside the four meter square room are about twenty children reviewing last week’s lesson.

The teacher is Em Tinath. He is from the rural province of Svay Reing and moved to Phnom Penh in 2002.  

He study English at a private school and rented a house in this railway slum.

“When I first got here, I was very scared because there are so many people; they use drugs and alcohol and are fighting. I escaped at night time, you know at mid night. I could not stay here because I was very scared.”

But he decided he had to do something to create positive change.

“I think what should I do for this village and these people and then I have an idea, to set up a school for the poor children. So I come back again and set up a small school and collected about ten children from those people fighting at the night time and to study with me for free.”

The school’s name is Tinath New Generation Academy and was established in 2009 and now has three teachers.

The class is divided into a morning and evening class with students aging from age 6 to 16 years old.

“All the children who come to my school they have promised they will avoid drugs, they don’t use drugs, they don’t drink alcohol, no gambling they have to come to school directly. I give them good advice. Come to my school without drug, alcohol and gambling.”  

The school has taught two hundred students over the last three years.

Tinath also works as a tour guide at the weekend and teaches Khmer to foreigners in Phnom Penh.

He brings tourists here to see the classes and the school runs off their donations.

“In the beginning I spent my own money. I used my motorbike to take some tourists to visit some places. I work like a private tour guide and then I invite tourists to come and visit my school and then they donate some small money.”

It is 11 o’clock, and the morning class has just finished.

13-year-old Neang Sophary comes running out.

“I am very happy to study here. I don’t need to pay money to study and the school helps me improve my English.”

Sophary want to be a musician.

46-year-old Sun Chanthy is a house wife.

She has ten children and four of them are learning English for free at Tinath New Generation Academy.

“I feel happy that he allowed my children to study like other children. Our living conditions are very difficult but I want my children to be well educated and get good jobs. I don’t want my children to become like me.”

Em Tinath has plans to expand the school.

“Some people from New York, from Australia, from New Zealand, they email me that they will help me and stand behind me and try to make progress with this school and maybe this school will become bigger in the future.”



01) slum area: daerah kumuh

02) drug and alcohol abuse: penyalahgunaan narkoba dan alkohol

 03) wooden shack: gubuk kayu

 04) established: didirikan

05) improve: memperbaiki

06) progress: kemajuan

07) aging: berusia/menua

08) gambling: berjudi

09) plywood: tripleks

10) outskirts: pinggiran kota


1) What is the Tinath New Generation Academy and where is it located?

2) How many students have studied there in the past three years and how  does it benefit the community?

3) What was his Tinath's experience like when he first go to the community?

4) How does Tinath introduce the school to foreigners and who is funding it?

5) What is the future of this school?

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 August 2011 15:36 )  

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