“What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated – tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom. We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free” – EPICTETUS
It is no secret that since the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, the education system in Cambodia has been in a phase of re-building. What was completely destroyed only 40-50 years ago, it has placed Cambodia behind most other parts of the world in terms of access to proper learning and training. This has put a huge strain on Cambodian society as a whole, as education is one the largest contributing factors to the foundational aspects of any society and its ability to progress.
Since joining FEFA college (Free Education for All), I’ve come to learn many things about not only the background stories of some of the students who attend the school, but also the educational philosophies that are implemented by the teachers of the commune.
It wasn’t long ago when the head teacher, Friendly was being put through a transformational education program by an Indian psychologist who came to Cambodia as a humanitarian with the goal of implementing his own system of learning for those who were born and raised in poverty stricken circumstances. One thing that I have come to observe since being in Cambodia is that many of the people lack a sense of self confidence and self esteem. This may be as a result of lack of education, causing a feeling of hopelessness and insignificance among the individuals, internally.
If you are born and raised in poverty, you tend to hold the belief that poverty is what you are destined for. We all know the power that our beliefs hold over us. What you believe tends to manifest itself into your reality. Therefore, many people who have been raised in poverty stricken environments in Cambodia have known nothing else and so, they are thrown back into this vicious cycle of material and emotional lack.
“We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free” – EPICTETUS
I sat down with the head teacher, Friendly at FEFA, and she explained to me the program that she underwent during the time this Indian psychologist came to serve the people of Cambodia. She said she was “brainwashed”, positively, having developed a new mindset of confidence, self esteem and abundance. This gave her the right tools in order to reach out to those who are struggling to become educated, and help them escape this cycle of material and emotional poverty.
As I watch the movements of the students in the commune, its clear to me that Friendly has implemented a philosophy similar to the one in which got her out of her cycle of lack. The students are taught many trades, including the language of English to cooking skills and handyman skills. Also, agriculture and gardening is another skill set that is encouraged within the commune. These students come from poor backgrounds. They are high school dropouts as a result of a lack of funds. So, they come to Friendly for free education and a mother figure who disciplines them and teaches them the value of being full of skill sets, knowledge and wisdom.
So, how does obtaining all of these skills and knowledge help with one’s self confidence and self esteem?
“What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated – tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom” – EPICTETUS
I was once sitting opposite a therapist in which I was visiting weekly, a few years back. I would sit there, pouring my heart out, waiting for her to give me all the answers to my problems. Self esteem was a huge thing that was weighing me down, at the time. She said, “You are 25 years old, you should have moved away from your parents by now”. I looked at her confused and asked, “What does this have to do with my lack of self esteem?”. Her response has stuck with me ever since the words came from her mouth – “When you get everything done for you in life, you lose your sense of worth. You feel incapable of looking after yourself because everything gets done for you. You don’t bother to learn new skills and obtain new wisdom, because your survival simply does not depend on it”.
So, what did I do about this? – I moved to Cambodia on my own in search of independence, wisdom, knowledge and new skill sets. Through this, I realised a greater level of self esteem.
This philosophy is implemented at FEFA college, where by the students are taught new skills and fed new pieces of wisdom in order for them to become independent individuals of society. Only then can they learn to break free from their past circumstances and leap forward as confident, valued members of their society.
It is education that breaks one free from whatever material or emotional lack that they luster. Education should not be a privilege, but a right for all members of the human race. Not only does this bring more of a sense of material and emotional prosperity to each individual, but it also allows for progression, collectively.