“When he first started coming home from school, talking about he learnt, my husband and I were so proud of him that we would cry”.
For 35-year-old Sok Seiha*, seeing her eldest son learn how to read and write was a joy like no other. At just seven years old, she had to drop out of school to work on the streets with her mother when her father died. Now illiterate and living below the poverty line, she dreams of a better future for her four children.
Growing up in Poipet city, located in Cambodia’s northwest, her son Sophos* first began attending school at ten years of age when he joined an education centre run by a Damnok Toek, a local charity. The centre, also supported by Aide et Action, offered him nutritious school meals, a safe space to play, and a quality education.
Now, at 14 years of age, Sophos is a top student and dreams of becoming a teacher. When he speaks of school, his whole face lights up. “I love everything about school,” he says smiling. “I especially love my teacher who explains everything clearly to me”.
In March last year, Seiha and her husband lost their jobs and had to sell the family’s smartphone to pay a smuggler to smuggle her husband across the border into Thailand in search of work. At the same time, Sophos’ school closed. Without a smartphone or TV to access distance learning programmes, Sophos’s only means of keeping up with his studies during school closures was through a weekly visit from his teacher.
Despite her loss of income and her husband’s absence, Seiha is still determined to keep her children in school even if it’s a cost she can’t afford.
Aide et Action, leading The Consortium For Out Of School Children, in partnership with Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, is committed to ensuring the continuity of education for students like Sophos during school closures. To ensure the continuity of his education, we have been distributing emergency aid in the form of food, hygiene, and educational supplies during the pandemic. For Seiha and Sophos, this support is a lifeline.
Seiha featured in a longer article written by Aide et Action in partnership with Southeast Asia Globe to highlight the barriers to education in Cambodia.
* Names of children and vulnerable adults have been changed.