This is the story of Sem Rann, a community teacher at UWS Dor in Cambodia. Sem Rann's story illustrates the power of a school to transform an entire community, and the importance of teachers to deliver life-changing education. This blog is the first in a two-part series to support the launch of Education Above All Foundation's #BuildBackEducation campaign. Education Above All have generously supported the training of over 300 UWS teachers as part of their support to UWS. 

This is Sem Rann, his story is an excellent example of how a UWS school transforms a whole community through quality, accessible, and inclusive education. 

Like many children in the communities we work in, Sem Rann was born into a farming family. 

As a child he has dreamt of becoming a teacher, sharing knowledge with others, and helping them to chase their dreams. Like many other communities in Cambodia however, his village had no school. Without a school, there was no opportunity to teach, and his only option was to farm rice, just as his parents had before him. His dream seemed to be just that, a dream, out of reach. Throughout most of his childhood, and as a teenager, he supported his parents and extended family by working on the farm. Through his work, he acknowledged the importance of learning, of passing on knowledge from one generation to the next, and building on what his parents had taught him to ensure he could live a better life. 

Sem Rann’s life changed forever, and his dream became a reality when he moved to another village, the village where UWS Dor had been built. The headteacher sensed his passion for teaching, and encouraged him to apply for a job at the school.

Now, he is delivering life-changing education to the children of the village, something which would never have been possible without the building of UWS Dor. Despite not being able to receive much schooling himself, Sem Rann’s passion for learning remained strong, and this determination made him a fantastic candidate for teacher training. 

Sem Rann knows as well as anyone the opportunities that a school can bring. ‘’If there was no UWS school I would still be a farmer’’. Most of the people living near UWS Dor are rice farmers, ‘’they take their children to farm rice in the fields, but they don’t have a choice, that’s their living’’. He understands first hand that by giving children an education, they can open the doors to a wealth of opportunities that their parents never had. 

Sem Rann is particularly passionate about teaching Khmer, the national language of Cambodia. Many of the children speak a regional language, Charai, and by learning Khmer they can unlock many more opportunities for themselves and their families, whilst also keeping their local culture and language alive. Strengthening the skills of local teachers who understand local languages is essential to ensuring that teaching is accessible and inclusive in UWS schools. 

The school has transformed the community in ways that he never expected, too. ‘’Recently they cut the grass and the forest around the school to keep the school environment good. More people have moved here and there are lots of new houses, the road has also improved a lot’’. The school has become a reason for other families to join the community. 

Supporting teachers and education staff like Sem Rann, particularly during global crises, is essential to make sure UWS Dor can continue to deliver transformative education for years to come. Being able to strengthen the education workforce relies on collaboration, strong community relationships, and crucially, reliable funding. The Education Above All Foundation has been indispensable to our teacher training and development work. Their support has helped us train and develop nearly 300 community teachers across 178 marginalised and rural communities.

By strengthening the education workforce and investing in local teachers, parents, and community education we can #BuildBackEducation even stronger than before Covid-19.