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Profiles
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19
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Dunn and Van, along with Phala Chea, LPS Specialist for
Community Outreach for English Language Learners and
Families, and Samkhann Khoeun, Educational Advisor for the
MCC Talent Search Program, served as the leadership team for
the group.
Program participants met with Cambodia's minister of
education, government officials, and organizations, as well as
teachers, students, artists, writers and others. The entire group
of American educators participated in some events together,
while other activities were individually arranged. They all
traveled throughout the country, including a nine-hour boat
trip to some remote villages. The weeks were packed with
work, as the educators pursued their individual projects in
Cambodia.
A highlight for everyone was being able to join crowds of
Cambodians to witness the trial and sentencing of the
notorious former prison chief, Comrade Duch, who was found
guilty of crimes against humanity by Cambodia's United
Nations-backed war crimes tribunal. Duch was the first of five
top Khmer Rouge figures to face the tribunal and was
sentenced to 35 years in prison. He had admitted overseeing
the torture and execution of thousands of men, women and
children at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison in the late 1970s.
Khoeun, Van and Chea went to the courtroom on the outskirts
of Phnom Penh to hear the verdict. Everyone else in the
exchange group watched it on a TV monitor set up in a village.
The verdict was broadcast live across the country.
For MCC's Interim Dean of Humanities Dona Cady, the entire
trip was "an exciting eye-opener." She plans to infuse
Cambodian literature and art into humanities courses on many
levels and believes she made strong connections on the trip.
Cady also hopes to make connections between Cambodia and
the work being done by the East-West Center's Asian Studies
Development Program (ASDP). Middlesex is a regional center
for ASDP and has been involved for more than two decades in
the development of Asian-studies initiatives. Cady organizes
regional ASDP conferences that promote Asian studies in the
U.S. and Asia.
"An interesting coincidence was that Millan Lov, the
filmmaker whose company was filming the trial, owned the
hotel where we stayed," said Cady. Lov's work was funded by
the East-West Center and the U.S., British and French
embassies.
As part of the Fulbright-Hays project, the American educators
were paired with Cambodian colleagues to encourage
continuing relationships based on the concerns and subjects
they share. Each of the participants has different projects and
areas of interest to pursue.
Chea from LPS, a Khmer-American scholar, wrote a teacher's
guide for the history textbook currently used in Cambodian
schools to teach about Cambodian history from 1975-79. "This
exchange was an incredible opportunity for our teachers to
experience the culture of the students they teach, so they can be
more sensitive to cultural differences and educational
approaches," said Chea. "There are major differences. In
Cambodia, 50 to 60 students per class is normal. There is no
technology. Teachers have no equipment and no budgets. The
government provides just $4 per pupil per year, and the teachers
are very underpaid. There are not enough classrooms or
teachers, and most students can only go to school for half a day."
(continued on next page)