Accessing school has been a challenging journey for Sophea*. But the ambitious 16-year-old is studying at a school supported by CARE’s Education for Ethnic Minorities project.
His parents divorced in 2011, after already moving from village to village, his time was then divided moving between his father’s house, mother’s house and grandmother’s house. Despite the constant change and lack of encouragement from his family, it was Sophea’s goal to keep learning through school.
As a Khmer student living in Ratanak Kiri villages, he was often studying with children from ethnic minorities. After time studying with Tampuen students, he learnt to speak some of the language as well as learn about the traditional culture.
In 2013, he started at in Trapaing Chress Lower Secondary School. He lived in the boarding house for two months, where he learnt more about hygiene, how to wash his hair, hands, body properly and clean the, bedroom, the kitchen, bathroom, toilet and to live healthily – instigated by a CARE teacher support program that equips teachers to teach students about hygiene. He also learnt more about effectively working in the classroom, together with ethnic minority students.
After becoming sick, he moved back in with his mother and travelled to school on the back of his friends’ bicycle. But he soon dropped out of school as his step-father discouraged him to attend. He later moved in with his grandmother where he collected cashew nuts.
School Support Committees, an initiative of CARE’s Education for Ethnic Minorities project which provides training and support to comittee members, visit families at their homes to discuss why a child has dropped out of school. The committee visited Sophea’s family and asked why he wasn’t attending school, and explained the importance of education. His family borrowed money from his uncle to buy him a bicycle so he can attend school and pursue his dreams.
“I want to become a teacher or work in an NGO when I finish school. I want to help children learn and provide support to students from poor families, which I can do as a teacher or in an NGO,” Sophea said.
His favourite subjects are Khmer and English, both which give him communication skills equipping him for the future. Sophea has now returned to the lower secondary school, continuing to learn. He will begin Grade 9 later in 2015.
These activities were part of the Education for Ethnic Minorities project,
which is funded by Australian Government.
The project contributes to CARE Cambodia's Ethnic Minority Women program.
 Sophea is a pseudonym, in accordance with CARE's child protection policy.