A Woman Runs a Village Library to Support Children’s Education 

Albums are displayed at the entrance of the Arak Svay village library, an invitation for children to browse through them. Photo provided by Soth Bopha.
  • Sao Sokeng
  • May 24, 2020 12:11 PM

She hopes to turn it into a resource for both children and farmers in the area 

PHNOM PENH--A Cambodian woman has set up a library in her village to help children whose learning has been disrupted by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic. 

Located in Arak Svay village in Siem Reap City’s Nokor Thom commune, the library was open a few days ago at the initiative of Soth Bopha and another woman villager. 

The photo shows Soth Bopha is taking selfies in front of the Arak Svay village library. 

Bopha had previously run mobile village libraries, she said in a phone interview on May 21. But this time, there is urgency in her initiative: to support children who have little or no material to keep on studying while schools are closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“During COVID-19 [shutdown], kids cannot go to schools. Living in rural areas like this, they can’t afford to use smart phones or the internet,” she said, to follow classes or access educational resources online.

“I discussed this with another villager who used to work with me,” Bopha said. “She suggested this idea, offering us to transform her own house into such a library…She told me she is happy [to do this] because during her childhood, it was difficult to find books. Thus, she hopes that these youngsters and her own children will study hard and read as much as they can.”

Using as slogan “Read, Think and Practice at No Charge,” the library accommodates less than 10 children at one time both due to space constraint and to respect social distancing to prevent COVID-19 contamination. They are welcome to self-study or simply read books, Bopha said. Currently, there are 574 books available ranging from fairy-tale series for kids, school manuals for students of all levels, novels and a variety of books obtained through donations by individuals.

A woman discusses books with a young audience. Photo provided by Soth Bopha.

More than a kid’s library 

Bopha hopes that this village library will not only serve as a place where children can learn and read but also a book bank where can be kept books on topics important to villagers such as agriculture. Having such books available would help them expand their knowledge and improve their techniques for farming and livestock production, Bopha said. 

Thinking long-term, Bopha has an ambitious plan: to raise funds in order to set up a digital library. Envisioning this as a digital family, it will have Wi-Fi installation and other important materials and devices such as disk players to facilitate learning for both children and adults.  

One of her other goals is, she said, to help instill the value of education among the poorest families. Bopha said she has observed that poor families tend not to encourage their children to study especially during crisis such as COVID-19. 

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