Girls’ education, a matter of determination
On the occasion of International Education Day, discover the incredible dream of Kumpheak, a girl living in northeastern Cambodia who gets to experience the advantages of our mobile library project. Despite the extra barriers and disadvantages that girls experience, she understands that education is crucial for her future and is determined to stay in school and keep learning.
A Girl with a Dream
Meet Kumpheak, 12 years old, from Ta Ang village in Ratanakiri province in northeastern Cambodia, about 600 kilometers from the capital Phnom Penh. Kumpheak dreams of becoming a teacher. For girls like Kumpheak this is a very ambitious dream. In the remote area where she lives, school infrastructure is seriously underdeveloped, and trained teachers and quality learning materials are often lacking. Like many children in the area, Kumpheak belongs to the indigenous Krung community. The Krung and other ethnic minorities count among the poorest people in the country and many indigenous families cannot afford to send their kids to school, preferring them to stay at home to help earn a living, usually by helping them with farming. And if ethnic minority children end up making it to school, they often face insurmountable languages difficulties there – the language spoken in class is Khmer, not their native language.
And if you happen to be a girl, your chances of getting and completing an education are even slimmer. In Cambodia, like in many low-income countries, only 1 in 3 girls finish lower secondary school. Poverty, gender inequality, and attitudes and traditions that perpetuate an image of women as less worthy of an education, contribute to this education gap.
So the odds are stacked against Kumpheak, but so far she has been lucky. Although she spends much of her free time helping her parents grow sesame, soybeans and sweet potatoes, they encourage her to go to school where she is a keen student. She has already defied the odds by making it to grade 5, and this intelligent and thoughtful girl is determined to keep studying.
Loving the Mobile Library
Kumpheak (and her parents!) are also big fans of Aide et Action’s mobile library which visits their village once per week. Kumpheak is a regular visitor.
“I come to the mobile library every week. I really like reading. Folk tales and cartoons are my favorite books. At the mobile library we can also play with educational toys, or watch an educational program that the librarian plays for us on the TV screen he carries on his tuk tuk, but what I like most of all at the mobile library are the books! Before the mobile library came to our village, all I had to read were my text books from school. Our school also has library, but there are not enough books. And the mobile library also has books in my language Krung, which we do not have at school. I borrow books from the mobile library, and then I read them at home. Sometimes I read them to my parents, and sometimes my parents read them to me. I really want to become a teacher. I don’t know yet whether I want to be a primary teacher, or teach in lower or higher secondary. I just want to be a teacher and also earn a living.”
Creating a Love of Reading & Learning
Aide et Action’s mobile libraries visit remote and disadvantaged Cambodian villages where books for children are lacking, both at home and at school. Thanks to the mobile libraries, all run by local community volunteers trained by Aide et Action, children like Kumpheak can practice their reading skills, expand their knowledge, or simply enjoy a good book, which they can also borrow to take home. Promoting a culture of reading helps develop education in the Southeast Asia region: the act of reading itself, but also growing up seeing parents and other people surrounding themselves with books, improves educational outcomes and has lifelong advantages, as science has shown.
Keeping Girls Involved
We are always thrilled to connect with girls like Kumpheak at our mobile libraries and hear them talk about school and study. In all the work we do, we aim to make the community aware of the value of an education for both boys and girls, and help the community achieve gender equality in school enrollment and attendance. Because it is undeniable that educating girls is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty, overcome inter-generational disadvantage, and ensure a healthy and equitable development of families, communities and entire nations.