Scholarship gives indigenous girl opportunity to attend school
4 Feb 2016
Many ethnic minority Cambodian children never attend school or drop out at a young age. However, Solear* isn’t one of them, even though many of her friends are already married.
The 15-year-old is studying grade seven at a Lower Secondary School in Ratanak Kiri province. She is from the Jarai ethnic minority.
“I enjoy school, the teachers and school director are very friendly. I push myself to attend school and try my best because education is important and it is my family’s wishes.”
She receives a scholarship from CARE, which allows her to stay in the boarding house and provides financial assistance and food packages.
“The scholarship helps a lot. It provides me with food, and with the money I’ve bought my uniform and learning materials. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to go to school without receiving a scholarship – it would have been too difficult.”
She shares a room with 29 other girls in the boarding house. Her family lives about 10 kilometres from the school in a Soum Trok village, so travelling to school would have otherwise been difficult without owning a motorbike.
“It’s easy for me to live here, because I am close to school and I can cook with friends.”
She comes from a poor family, with both her parents working on a rice and cashew farm where she also helps and works on weekends and public holidays. Neither attended school and therefore cannot read or write. Her mother does not speak any Khmer and her father only speaks a little.
“My parents are happy to see me go to school. My father is very sick, so he wants me to study hard so I can get a job,” Solear said.
“My favourite subjects are mathematics, social studies and English. I like English because I want to speak to people from other countries and from outside my village and it will also help me get a good job.
“I hope to become a nurse and practice in Ou Ya Dav, so I can help the people in the area especially the Jarai people like me.” Helping Solear break the cycle and finish primary school, she attended a primary school supported by CARE that offers multilingual education – which allowed her to learn in her own language of Jarai before being slowly introduced to the national language of Khmer. “Now Khmer is easy for me,” Solear said.
Solear is breaking the historical patterns of ethnic minority villages – that often sees girls kept from receiving an education with collecting water, caring for siblings and duties at home taking priority, and many getting married at a young age. “Lots of my friends are already married. I see that – and life does not get better for them. I don’t want to get married soon. As we are poor, my father said that if I get married soon life will be harder and it will be more difficult for me to get a good job.”
*Solear is a pseudonym in accordance with CARE’s child protection policy