By Amelia Poxon, CARE Communications Coordinator, July 2010
Thong Lean Thavy stands at the front of her class of grade one students in Team Leu Village, gently prompting them to call out the words she is pointing to on the blackboard.
She looks around the room and sees one girl who is shyly looking at the ground, not callingout in unison with the class. She walks over and kneels next to her, coaxing the small girl who shifts in her seat, eventually parrots the correct answer, and smiles.
At 27 years of age, Thavy is a young role model to the children in her class and her two young children who are yet to start school. She didn’t go to school herself, yet here she isteaching the future leaders of her village in not one, but two languages.‘
When I was young the village was very dirty and not so happy. Many people could not reador write and there was no place to study.’Team Leu was one of the six pilot villages nominated for CARE’s Highland CommunitiesProgram in north-eastern Cambodia.
Eight years ago, the community met with CARE staffand agreed to be part of the program. The elders selected villagers to be trained to teach atthe bilingual school – which provides a gateway for indigenous children to access state runsecondary schools where Khmer is the only language used.
Now the bilingual communityschool has been adopted into the state school system.Thavy explains that ‘because we want to keep our language and tradition it’s important tospeak our native language, Kreung. But the children need to know Khmer in order to gooutside the village.
’She was just 19 years old when she was nominated for teacher training, and was initiallydaunted by the responsibility. ‘My father was the Village Chief and he and the other eldersselected me to become the teacher. Before that I was planting rice. They said they needed a woman, who could speak very well. I thought: why did they select me? I am a woman, and Iam young!’‘
Now, I am very happy and proud that I became a teacher. Before I could not read or write,but now I have done the teacher training and study, and have come to work with CARE. Iuse my salary to buy medicine, clothes, kitchen materials and to support my family. I hopethe girls in my class are happy to become teachers too,’ she says.
Judging by the adoring gaze from the small girl in the back row, it looks like Team Leu willcontinue to produce strong female teachers in the future.