CARE’s Education for Ethnic Minorities program began in 2002 and has recently been handed over to the Cambodian government. The project has given Indigenous children
the opportunity to learn in their mother tongue, with gradual introduction of the national language, Khmer. Previously, many students dropped out of school or did not go at all because they did not understand Khmer.
Through this program, CARE has helped to recruit and train Indigenous teachers, with a particular focus on women. CARE has also produced textbooks and other classroom resources in four Indigenous languages. The textbooks cover the national curriculum and incorporate elements of Indigenous culture and lifestyles.
The final year of the project focuses on the sustainability of multilingual education (MLE), including working with the Cambodian Indigenous People’s Alliance (CIPA) to generate evidence-based advocacy and raise public awareness on MLE.
Somey is a member of Cambodia’s Indigenous Youth Alliance. He leads a youth group in Koun Mon district in Ratanak Kiri Province in the country’s northeast. He has volunteered for many years for various NGOs and with different ethnic minorities including Tampoun, Kreung and Cham, implementing social development activities on MLE, good governance, gender dynamics and ending gender-based violence.
“Many people in my community do not understand their rights and have limited access to services. They do not share knowledge and hesitate to discuss and raise their problems. If there is a problem, they do not know how to respond. I would like to help and represent the community. Our culture encourages us to help each other. This is one of our values.”
“A major issue that I think we need to keep working on is education. Previously, lack of effective MLE may have been a major cause of low education, as children could not catch up with lessons. This led to high dropout rates. I notice that the current MLE program has made significant change in helping children to learn Khmer language. They can learn about the outside world and understand the general context of the society”.
“Last year, I participated in a workshop on the MLE National Action Plan 2019-2023, and then led my team to conduct a dissemination workshop in two communities in Ratanak Kiri Province. We raised awareness about MLE and advised them that it is now part of the national curriculum. We also discussed the standards of education they could expect and the role of School Support Committees (SSCs) to work with the community to monitor teachers’ performance. We encouraged them to send their children to school. The community also gave us feedback on MLE that we can use in our advocacy work.”
“Following the workshop, I inspired four people representing Kreung, Khmer and Cham ethnic communities to form a team to engage with CIPA. We share information from the MLE National Action Plan with the community and help them to be more aware of their rights. We also raise awareness about MLE with the commune councils and SSCs.”
“Through participation in the workshops and meetings conducted by CARE, I have gained confidence to engage with the community and to lead groups to implement activities. In the future, I want to keep working in the community as the coordinator for government or for a civil society organisation working with ethnic minorities. I think it is very important for people in the community to have the opportunity to give feedback to schools and the education system. We have to encourage and support this new generation to push for better education”.