By Amelia Poxon, CARE Communications Coordinator, July 2010
In Team Leu village's bilingual primary school, rows of young students proudly sit at their wooden desks as the first generation of their community to receive a formal education.
In the doorway, Krunh Kasung leans in and watches the class with the other village elders. She is a busy woman - a mother of five, the Deputy Chief of her indigenous Kreung villageand a member of the School Board, which plays a fundamental role in CARE’s process of introducing bilingual education to indigenous communities in Cambodia’s north-eastern province of Ratanak Kiri. She advises CARE on any cultural issues that the community wouldlike included as stories in the textbooks, manages the school, takes the student's attendance, and selects the local youth to be trained as teachers.
Despite her tiny frame and broad smile, she gives the strong impression that she’s not to bemessed with. She has seen the significant change in her home village over the eight years since the school first opened, and is a proud ambassador for bilingual education.
‘We have two reasons to teach both Kreung and Khmer. Firstly, when the young children cannot speak and write in Khmer it makes them afraid to go to school, so we use the indigenous language to teach them to read and write and it becomes a bridge to the national language. Secondly, we don’t want the children to lose their culture because they speak inKhmer in the future. We are Kreung. If we don’t speak Kreung, who will? ’That's a fair question. Before CARE's Highland Communities Program came to Team Leu village the Kreung language had never been written.
Now, local teachers are being trained to teach in not one but two languages; Kreung is being written into text books for the first time in history; and the educated students have the opportunity to access their basic rights. ‘If I think about the school, I am very happy.
Before, indigenous people could not read and could not write. They had no education. We tell the children, now you have a school in the village, and a teacher in the village, you should come to school! Don’t be unclever like someof the elders here who didn’t go to school.
’‘Our School Board is very happy and has a strong commitment to supporting the school because we see students get jobs, and help their families not be poor anymore.
’Krunh Kasung is proud of her role in the community and in helping to bring education to herchildren and the many other smiling faces that she looks in on each day.
‘I hope my children will finish grade six here in the community school and then studysecondary school in the next district. Then if they finish secondary school I hope they get ajob like me. I hope they get a good salary, a good job and have an easy life, not like myfamily did.’