-Aide et Action, Cambodia-
Children with disabilities face social stigma and many do not go to school.
Wearing a white blouse with Hello Kitty on it, Channa* buries her head in her hands on her classroom desk. The 12-year-old girl, from a village in Kandal province, Cambodia, was born with a hole in her heart and has Down syndrome. She struggles to get a sentence out because of her disability. “It’s essential that she gets a chance to go to school and receives an education,” says Vannara Sreymom, a teacher at Ang Snuol Primary and Secondary school.
According to 2015 research by the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children (CCOSC), 13% of children aged 6 to 15 who are not enrolled in school are disabled. The most common disability is intellectual, and includes problems with remembering or concentration.
Many children with disabilities are ostracized by society that believe they don’t deserve to get an education. And children with disabilities are more likely to be beaten by other children at school, research shows.
Channa, who was abandoned in her village and adopted by a Cambodian family when she was just 2 weeks old, only began going to school when she was 10!
Her adoptive mother thought that because she had a disability she could not enroll in school.
But Rabbit School Organisation (RSO), a partner of Aide et Action (AEA) spoke to her family. And today Channa goes to Ang Snuol where she attends classes with other children who have disabilities or learning problems. She learns consonant and traces letters to learn the alphabet, and enjoys playing with the other children and the teacher.
RSO works across Cambodia to provide educational and therapeutic activities for children with disabilities.
Vannara admits that it’s often hard to control Pang’s behaviour in class, but says “she’s learning fast”.
Pieh Pavnheanpanha, 9, is a slow learner. She attends classes alongside Channa at Ang Snuol.
“I like the classroom and my friends,” she says as the pair blow bubbles together with the boys. “I’m happy to come to school because I want to learn.”
*Channa is pseudonyms in accordance with AEA Child protection policy.