There’s an estimated five million children in Cambodia, and fifty-one percent of the population is aged under 22. Sixty to 70 percent of all Cambodian children are able to go to school, but many repeat the first grade at least twice and drop out by the second grade. Most of the dropouts are girls. For those who are able to stay in school, 0% have music taught to them in their classrooms.
In many parts of the world it is normal for school and music to be compulsory for all children over the age of five until they are in their teens. However, in other parts of the world – like Southeast Asia – it is something that is harder to access.
So how do you create a music curriculum for an entire country’s education system? With ukuleles.
The Rhythm & Reason Initiative has officially launched in Cambodia, and our goal is to change the way music is taught in Cambodian schools. We, along with music education advocates, strongly believe in the value of music in education and believe it should be valued equally alongside reading, writing and numeracy in school curricula. Research has shown that music education improves cognitive abilities, enhances academic achievement and promotes wellbeing. If children are exposed to a musical instrument before the age of 7, they have an enhanced ability to learn, to take in information and to learn new concepts.
The problem is that less than 1 percent of the Cambodian population owns a musical instrument at home, and 0% of Cambodian schools teach music in the classroom.
With your help, our Buy One, Give One program will change this. Each and every ukulele kit sold will contribute to putting a school teacher in Cambodia through our ukulele course. The 10-week program not only educates teachers on how to play the ukulele, it also teaches them how to maintain it so that the instrument – and subsequent musical curriculum – becomes a sustainable part of the Cambodian school system. Teachers are taught how to re-string and look after a ukulele before they bring the instrument back to their classroom.
Our goal is to get music into every school in Cambodia facilitated by customer pledges towards supporting teacher education and training of the ukulele.
‘We tried to think of what the kids really need, and that’s education, the ukulele can be used as a tool for that.
What we’re doing for Children right now is working to put music to local Cambodian songs and record and produce them. Also, we’d like to create fun gestures to go with the songs and instructional videos for teachers to learn the songs to introduce into their classrooms.” Marcus Whelan, chief Volun-uker at Bondi Ukuleles said.
The first song Rhythm & Reason trialed with some schools was One Little Finger, a song that both teachers and students enjoyed immensely. The children have played Stop the Music, a game similar to Musical Statues in which the children stop dancing when the ukulele stops playing, and have also sung along to a Khmer version of Wheels on the Bus which we’ve called “the Wheels on the moto” since motorbikes are more prominent than buses in Cambodia.
The response to the initiative launched into villages has been overwhelmingly positive. “In our test in January the kids loved our songs, gestures and games all to the tune of a ukulele. This feedback is motivation to create more,” Whelan said.
Rhythm & Reason has just begun in Cambodia, however the road ahead is long. We can’t continue to support the education of children in need without your help.
Our Buy One, Give One program is a great way for you to help children in Cambodia, and pledging your support with a ukulele will ensure that vital musical resources are provided to Cambodian schools and children across the country.