I have the remarkable fortune of working with and mentoring some very earnest young Cambodians who do not maintain any illusions about this place yet are committed to improving themselves and their nation through education.
For complex sociological reasons, Cambodians for centuries have not appreciated or fostered intellectual curiosity amongst themselves. Consequently, close to 80% of Cambodian adults are considered by UNESCO’s standards to be functional illiterates.
Oftentimes, Cambodian students are genuinely afraid of what should be the pleasurable task of reading. For them, the foreign process of reading for knowledge or pleasure initiates a potentially dangerous process of critical thinking which easily undermines their anachronistic socialization and forces them to consider their individual role in maintaining a system purposefully designed to keep the docile masses from expecting anything from the brutal minority.
I never expected the handful of adult students who showed up to my educational philosophy class in a rainstorm last night to have tears in their eyes as they described the experience of reading the local newspapers, at my suggestion, every day for one week.