By Amelia Poxon, CARE Communications Coordinator, July 2010
When CARE's Bending Bamboo project began researching the reasons why girls had a low school attendance in Cambodia's north eastern province of Ratanak Kiri, one thing became apparent: they weren't dropping out of school - they were forced out.
Girls would often finish school in grade one or two, to take on tasks that were well beyondtheir age, like caring for their younger siblings, working on nearby farms or rice fields to earnan income, or helping with household chores.
Educating parents about the importance of sending their children to school and easing the young girls' workload were the priorities for boosting the attendance rate, and the impactsare adorably visible at CARE’s Early Childhood Development Centre in Sil VIllage.
Thirteen pairs of five-year-old eyes gaze up at Kam Phong Kampeak, an early childhoodteacher in the centre. The children giggle but watch their teacher attentively as they sitcross-legged on straw mats.Kam Phong Kampeak has been working at the centre for two years. Before that, she explains ‘I used to work on the farm, but always wanted to be a teacher. The salary I get I use to buy things for cooking like salt. I give some to my parents and there is still some left to buy clothes,’ her face brightens as she adds, ‘I feel important because I can give some help to my family.
’From 7am-10am three days a week, the children come to this Early Childhood DevelopmentCentre, one of seven CARE has established in the Province, which provide children from 0-6years of age with basic social and educational skills to prepare them to enter CARE’s bilingual education system in grade one.
The children love attending the classes, and Kam Phong Kampeak is proud to be part of the change in her community. She smiles shyly as she explains how CARE and the local villagewomen’s committee selected her to become a teacher.
‘I was so happy when I got the newsthat I would be trained by CARE as a teacher. I feel proud that my community like me andselected me for this job. I like playing games, singing songs, story-telling and drawingpictures with the children. I enjoy teaching because I want to see the children get an education, and when they grow up they will find a job,’ she says confidently.
If they were not here, the children would be at home, cared for by their older siblings or taken with their parents while they work in the rice fields.
Now, with the young children attending CARE’s Early Childhood Centres, their older sistersare free to be students rather than carers, and there is hope for their parents that theireducated children will break the traditional cycle of poverty.