Learning in two language is very important for indigenous children
4 Oct 2019
Chorvy teaches Grade 3 at Kror La Primary school, which has been part of CARE’s Education for Ethnic Minorities program. Chorvy was herself a beneficiary of the program when she was at primary school.
Chorvy’s story in her own words:
I have seven siblings, and I’m married with two kids. My son is seven and my daughter is five months. There were 12 of us living all together, but recently my husband and I moved to our own home with our kids. My husband is a soldier. I often bring my baby to school because there’s no one to look after her at home.
Six of my seven siblings went to the multilingual school like me when they were kids. My sister is now the head teacher at this school and another of my siblings teaches Grade 4 in Khmer language. Four of my younger siblings are studying and I’m supporting them financially.
My mother had no education and my father only knew how to write his own name.
My parents are very happy with what me and my siblings have achieved – they recently told our community this in in community meeting. They encourage their children to support themselves and be financially independent.
Before I had kids, I would work in the field after the school day. Now I go home and prepare food for my family. It is sometimes difficult juggling between my job and the household chores. I feel bad when it impacts on the kids’ education, like today when I had to take my baby to the doctor and couldn’t come to school in the morning.
The multilingual classes are important because they prepare students for the higher grades. Grades 1 to 3 are a combination of their mother tongue and Khmer and when they know the differences between theses languages they’ll be able to learn better as they progress to only learning in Khmer.
The children are very influenced by the Khmer ways of living, and sometimes when I’ve taught them about the Indigenous culture they’ve started laughing. I try to explain that this is the way our community has been living for many years. The schools have been good for our culture. There are cultural stories in the text books and the kids show them to their families and it reminds the parents of aspects of the culture they had forgotten.
The biggest challenge in my job is the lack of materials like books and charts. We used to have more when CARE ran the program, but now that the government runs the program we have less. Last year I went to the provincial office to ask for materials but they said there weren’t any and told me to make my own. I do make my own, but they don’t last long. The materials CARE provided were high quality.
The other challenge is student absences, which are especially common around harvest season, when parents will keep their children home to work on the farm. When this happens I will visit the parents and encourage them to send their kids to school. Also many students don’t pay attention to their studies.
I originally became a teacher to support my family, because we were living in poverty. My father heard that CARE and the community leaders were recruiting people to teach in the multi-lingual schools. Not many people volunteered because the stipend was only around $30 a month, equivalent to a 50kg bag of rice. But I volunteered and with the financial support from CARE I was happy to be able to buy food for my family.
I trained in 2006 and started teaching in 2007. My salary has gradually increased over the years and I now earn 1,200,000 riels (around $300) a month. I have a Graduate Certificate thanks to CARE – CARE’s support has been so important to get me to where I am today. I don’t know where I would be otherwise. Some people care most about money but me, I strive for knowledge. The knowledge I’ve gained thanks to CARE has helped me be more confident in my life. I’m so incredibly happy. I began as a volunteer teacher in a community school and now I’m a state teacher in the government education system – I couldn’t have imagined it.
Before we had multilingual schools, only about five kids in my village went to school. Now some students that I taught when they were kids have come back to the school to teach with me. If I hadn’t gone to school and learnt in both languages I wouldn’t be able to do anything now except farm. Doing things like going to the doctor, like I did with my baby girl this morning, would be hard if I didn’t know Khmer.
My students say they want to be teachers, doctors, police officers and accountants. In the past we thought it was only Khmer people who could do these things but now we see that Kreung people can do all these jobs. Some of them go to so much effort in class so that they can achieve these dreams. Some ask me what it’s like to be a teacher and how they can become one. There’s no perfect way to support a student but I advise them and teach them as best as I can. Pheakany has a very serious attitude and she really wants to be a teacher. Tbong likes to stand up and read at the front of the class and I think this is why she wants to be a teacher. [Case studies for these students are also available.]
I have witnessed a lot of change in my village. There used to be fewer people and smaller houses. People didn’t value education because all they could think about was how to put food on the table. Now they can see how having educated children can help their household earn an income in the future. NGOs need people who can read and write in Kreung so they’re hiring people who have those skills, and some people in the community who aren’t literate but want to work really regret that they didn’t learn to read or write.
I’m happy the government has taken ownership of this project because it shows that my culture and language is valued and appreciated. Other countries should teach children in both languages like this because it’s a great way to preserve culture.