A room in Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum like the ones now converted into classrooms. Photo by Lindsay.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum has reclaimed part of its original status as a high school by coordinating free history lectures on the Khmer Rouge regime.
The museum holds the classes every Wednesday from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. and Friday from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Scholars Cambodian history and S-21 survivors lead the lectures.
The Documentation Centre of Cambodia, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts started the classes in November.
The lessons contrast the devaluation of education promoted by the Khmer Rouge with slogans such as, “Study is not important. What’s important is work and revolution.”
Lectures focus on the Khmer Rouge hierarchy, its domestic and foreign policies, security systems, the S-21 office, the regime’s fall, and the verdict of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
So far, the courses have attracted an average of twenty to thirty people at one time. More than half of them were tourists, the rest mostly Cambodian students.
Lecturers speak in English, which most Cambodian students can understand. There are also lectures in Khmer for Cambodians who do not speak English. At the end of each lecture, people can express their thoughts or add comments.
Australian Ben Alpers, 42, who attended a class, says the unusual environment is more conducive to study.
When you come to something like this, you can’t help but feel it. It keeps you very focused, not like a normal classroom which is very distracting. I think that’s what we lack in schools today.
We lack feeling. My problem with education systems is exactly that. They’re so out of context, you don’t actually learn anything. You can learn more in five minutes here than you could learn in three years in an Australian classroom. And you remember it.