Thida is in Grade 3 at Kror La Primary School, a CARE supported multilingual education school. Thida already has more formal education than either of her parents. Her 17-year-old sister Nang is at secondary school in the nearest town, Ban Lung, thanks to a scholarship from CARE.
Thida’s story in her own words:
I am ten years old and I’m in Grade 3. There are six people in my family – two sisters, one brother, my parents and me.
Every day I wake up, wash my face and go to collect water. Then I pack up my bed and mosquito net and walk to school.
At school we do subjects like maths, Khmer and social sciences. I like coming to school because I want to learn and know things, like to how speak Khmer. Our teacher shows us how to write Khmer words and how to say them. I come to school because I want to be able to respond when someone speaks to me in Khmer.
My mum doesn’t have any education but my dad went up to Grade 2. His school only taught in Khmer. But my parents don’t really speak Khmer – only Kreung. My mum is happy that I’m coming to school – when I oversleep she wakes me up and makes sure I go.
Sometimes when my teacher writes in Khmer I don’t understand, but she always gives me help when I ask. My teacher Chorvey is my role model because she’s hard working and kind to people, she’s never mean.
I want to have a job when I’m older. After I graduate, I’ll hopefully become a teacher. To become a teacher I’ll need to stay in school and study hard.
Quotes from Chorvey, Thida's teacher:
Thida likes to stand up and read at the front of the class and I think this is why she wants to be a teacher. 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.
Quotes from Nang, Thida’s sister
I have been at secondary school in Ban Lung [nearest town] for five years. In Grades 7 and 8 I still lived at home and Dad would take me to school [30 minute drive], but that was hard on him so now I stay in the dorm. My parents bought me a motorbike so I can drive myself home on weekends and holidays. Sometimes I get homesick, and some of the other students discriminate against me because I’m from a poor family. But it will be worth it in the future, to have an education.
After secondary school, I would like to study Khmer literature and become a Khmer teacher. Knowing Khmer helps me communicate with a wider range of people.
Quotes from Sok, Thida’s mother
I was so incredibly excited, happy and proud when Nang got her scholarship. The committee members came to the house to interview her and she answered very honestly and impressed them with her commitment to study.
Quotes from Thornt, Thida’s father
We are very happy that Thida and Nang are learning because my wife and I don’t have an education. My other daughter and my son both quit school to get married, and I regret that now. Thida and Nang will hopefully be able to work in professional jobs and the others will have to continue working on the farm. Although I can’t be certain about my daughters’ futures, they will have knowledge, and that’s the main thing.
As well as Khmer and Kreung, Thida can spell some things in the Roman alphabet, and Nang speaks some English. I also think it would be beneficial for my daughters to learn Chinese in the future. The teachers play a very important role by teaching them in multiple languages.
Thida normally does some chores around the house in the afternoon, after school, and then she spends one-and-a-half or two hours before bed doing homework.
These days, we’re more aware of the importance of giving girls the same opportunities as boys.
*Name has been changed in accordance with CARE's child protection policy.