A school born after the war for underprivileged children living within the Angkor temples’ walls
Initiated in the 1990s by a monk who took in orphans from the war, the Bayon School has been providing quality education and medical support to underprivileged young people living in the Angkor temple region of Cambodia for nearly 30 years.
The war against the Khmer Rouge left the country without any school infrastructure
The war against the Khmer Rouge and then the Vietnamese occupation ended in the early 1990s. They completely destroyed Cambodia’s education system and all its schools. Almost a quarter of the population was exterminated during this period and half a million Cambodians managed to flee into exile abroad. The country has endured some 30 years of tension, violence and devastating tragedies that make reconstruction long and difficult. Today, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia: in 2014, 15% of the Cambodian population officially lived below the national poverty line of $1/day (Source: World Bank, 2018).
Take action to help children and provide them with education
While the civil war is just ending and the Khmer Rouge are still present in many provinces of Cambodia, especially in the Siem Reap region, a group of friends are leaving to visit the temples of Angkor. Among them, Maï, a Cambodian refugee in France, and Marcel, a Frenchman living in Tokyo, meet a monk who lives in a pagoda a few hundred metres from the Bayon temple. He takes in orphans in need as a result of the conflict and provides them with a semblance of education.
Maï and Marcel decide to mobilise their respective networks to finance the pupils’ schooling. A French association is created to support this action: les Chemins de l’enfance. Gradually, word of mouth does its work and the children living around the Bayon temple join the school and begin to learn. Thanks to financial and material donations from friends of the association, the Bayon School was set up and since 1997, it has been able to provide schooling for around fifty children living in extreme poverty each year.
To help rebuild my country, I set up an association to provide schooling for children.
MAÏ, Franco-Khmer refugee in France
I studied at the Descartes High School in Phnom Penh, then at the Faculty of Pharmacy in Lyon. As a refugee at the French embassy when the Khmer Rouge evacuated the city, I escaped with my two little girls, but my husband and my parents were taken away. I came back to Cambodia with the hope of finding them again. Today, I know that they are gone forever. To help rebuild my country, I worked as a volunteer for the Ministry of Health. With friends, we created an association to provide schooling for poor children living around the temples of Angkor.
MARCEL, involved from the start
I arrived in Cambodia in 1993 to visit Angkor and on that occasion I met an old monk who was taking care of orphans. I committed myself to delivering rice. During a second stay I went to visit the monk. He had a stroke and died in my arms. I took this as a sign and decided to continue his work. I hired a teacher to give lessons to the orphans.
I met an old monk who took care of orphans. I had promised to deliver rice.
People who have left their mark on the school
A great and faithful friend of Marcel, Kong has been involved from the start in the Bayon School. He has always been very present on the ground and was in charge of the young students’ schooling and all the follow-up of the work. For more than 20 years, he was the relay of the teams in France and the teachers in Cambodia.
First teacher of the Bayon School, for more than 10 years, Samoy was in charge of the only class in the primary school. He was then a grade 1 teacher and ended his career in 2019 to take a well-deserved retirement.
Involved from the very beginning, Jacqueline created the “SEP du Bayon” association in 2005 and mobilised her network to provide funding, school materials and day-to-day support. She organised fundraising events (gospel, theatre, etc.) and various sales (flea markets, Christmas market) to finance the schooling of around 170 pupils and secondary school students supported by the association at that time.
He joined the association in 2007 and became president. He quickly set up the sponsorship system: today there are about 450 sponsors who have joined the Bayon School and who support us year after year. Vincent also launched the bakery/pastry vocational training school in 2014 with the help of the volunteers and Khmer teams present on site.
Since June 2019, the Bayon School has been chaired by Patrice Legendre, who has been working alongside Vincent Robert for many years.