Nan Chrong and Bor Kal have eight children, ranging from 17 to 35 years old. As education awareness has grown in ethnic minority communities, so too the priority they have placed on school attendance and study in their family, including for their daughters.
Their two eldest sons reached grade three in school before dropping out, and the third grade six. The two girls to follow, aged 24 and 26, were never enrolled in or attended school. The next boy, 22, finished grade 11, then the next boy, 20, has just finished grade 12 and aspires to work with an international organisation such as the United Nations, with their youngest daughter, 17, currently studying grade 10.
CARE has worked for 10 years in Ratanak Kiri villages, promoting the importance of education, and that girls shouldn’t be kept from school to help with housework, as part of its Bending Bamboo project.
“We didn’t know what we know now. We thought you could make a life without education. We didn’t know how important education is. Now, we want all our grandchildren to go to school and finish grade 12,” Nan Chrong said.
The two older daughters were married when they were 14. He now won’t let his descendants get married until they finish school.
"They looked after their younger siblings and helped us on the farm."
We learnt a lot from the Bending Bamboo project. Many girls in the village now go to high school – they’re not dropping out. The workload of girls is better divided. Before, often daughters did not go to school. Now, most do.
“In 20 years, things have changed a lot. Most people couldn’t read and write. Now, many young people can read and write, in their own language and Khmer.”
The 17-year-old daughter Sreymau admits to a time when she begged not to go to school. “When I was about 10 I wanted to stop school, because I just wanted to play with my friends. Now I like school a lot. Sometimes my mother calls me home to work, but I say I can’t because I’m busy with my studies,” Sreymau said.
“I want to be a teacher in a village, so that I can be a role model for young girls, to study like me. I also want to be a secondary teacher.”
Nan Chrong said it was difficult to send his daughter to school with transport issues, but tried hard to support her.
Nan Chrong and Bor Kal have 15 grandchildren. One grandchild recently wanted to leave school at year 11 – but he was told he must finish grade 12.
“I want my grandchildren to have a god job. If they don’t finish grade 12, they can’t find a good job.”
These activities were part of the 10-year Bending Bamboo project, which ended in 2015 funded by Patsy Collins Trust Fund Initiative.
The project contributes to CARE Cambodia's Ethnic Minority Women program.
 Sreymau is a pseudonym, in accordance with CARE's child protection policy.