Italian Roman Catholic priest St John Bosco once said: “The school was not the end; it was rather the instrumental means for improving the way of life.”
Popularly known as Don Bosco, St Bosco is regarded as one of the greatest educators of his time in the 19th century. His philosophy is still observed at Don Bosco schools around the world, including the Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville.
The school is located over 8ha with 13 buildings in the Kingdom’s coastal province of Preah Sihanouk.
Recently, students at the Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville attended a practical workshop which was conducted to prepare them for employment after completing two years of studies.
The school is dedicated to helping Cambodia’s underprivileged youth gain employment and live with dignity in their society, lift them out of poverty and guide them to a worthwhile and fulfilling existence.
The school’s headmaster Ouch Sambo, 36, is a former social communication and journalism student.
Sambo first worked as a teacher for four years. He was promoted to deputy headmaster and served in the position for another two years. In 2015, he was appointed the school’s headmaster.
Sambo told The Post that other than the technical school in Preah Sihanouk province, Don Bosco has other schools in Phnom Penh, Kep, Battambang, and Banteay Meanchey. They are among a total of 131 Don Bosco schools around the world.
“To date, the Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville has had 18 batches of graduates totalling 5,651 students.
“Some 95 per cent of them have secured decent jobs, three per cent chose to pursue a higher degree, and two per cent decided to run their own businesses,” said Sambo.
The Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville provides a two-year course for students who both passed or failed their national high school examination.
The full-day course is tailor-made to train Cambodian youths to be employment-ready. This year 337 students are learning to become electricians, auto mechanics, technicians, secretaries, and hotel employees.
They have had to go through a strict admission process where they sit for tests on subjects including English, Mathematics and general knowledge.
“When students pass the selective admission, they will decide whether to stay in the dormitory or outside the school compound. Those who prefer to stay in the dormitory have to follow the gate rules, church schedule, peer study programme, group work and cleaning roster,” Sambo said.
No valuable jewellery or mobile phones are allowed in class. The school’s strict routine starts at 7.30am with an assembly to sing the national anthem. Then the teachers and school management team share their experience before they head to attend classes in the morning session.
At 12.30pm, students have lunch in the school canteen and take turns to wash the dishes after their meal. When the afternoon session concludes, students assemble again at 4.25pm for advice and a brief on the following day’s study plan.
Apart from strict rules, the 36-year-old headmaster also said the school offered fun activities and other benefits for the students.
“In addition to free accommodation, students receive three free meals daily and a leisure tour once or twice a year. The same benefits are also available to non-resident students.
“They get complimentary English or computer lessons and can work part-time for income to support themselves without adding to their families’ burden.”
The funding for the school comes from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, the US and Hong Kong. However, decreasing donations has put the school in a difficult position.
“With declining donations and the recent terrible floods which happened twice and damaged the school’s furniture, equipment and study materials, we are facing a tough time.
“We are struggling to recover from the loss which amounts up to $500,000,” Sambo said.
He said that as a solution, the school requested students partly share the cost by paying $200 annually.
“For that, they receive a class uniform, workshop uniform, socks and shoes,” he said.
Staying true to its main purpose of providing quality education, the school practises the Salesian Preventive System – a teaching method which focuses on love rather than punishment.
Sambo said that because of this, most students from any Don Bosco school are supportive and caring towards one another.
“Our students have a sense of generosity and responsibility to support each other,” he said.
Employers of the school’s graduates gave positive feedback on their working capability. This has been spread by word of mouth, helping Don Bosco Technical School be known among the public for its quality education.
The Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville is located at #5, Sangkat 4, Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province.