In Prakiep village, a small, remote rural village located in Cambodia’s Kampong Thom Province, children are missing out on an education. In fact, across Cambodia, an estimated 250,000 children are currently out of school due to barriers such as remote geographical location and poverty.
Here at Aide et Action, we have led, and continue to lead, the Cambodian Consortium of Out of School Children (CCOSC) to reduce the barriers preventing children from attending school and provide more access to education.
While visiting Prakiep village – one of our target areas – in 2019, we saw that many children marginalised by poverty and by their geographical remoteness are now attending school more regularly. While the school scholarships we are providing are also making a difference, challenges remain.
The lure of the Tonle Sap
Peering into the schoolyard while the other students played, we found Samith and Long*, two best friends, currently out of school. Long is twelve years old and back in the village with his family for a short time. Although born in the village, Long and his seven siblings usually spend ten months of the year living along Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake, which, during the rainy season is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
Samith isn’t sure where he was born nor what age he is but like Long, he spends most of the year on the lake, helping his family to make a living by fishing. Neither of the boys have been to school before and while they say diving for fish is fun, they hope they won’t have to spend all of their lives making a living this way. It’s too difficult.
When on the lake, the boys dive as well as use traps and nets for catching fish. They keep a little to eat and sell the rest and are happy to have repeat, regular customers. The two young boys who have grown up between the village and lake together, love returning home to the village every year and wish they could stay a little longer and have the chance to go to school.
Dreaming of more
Long’s dream is to go to school and he tries to learn as much as he can from the other children when he’s back in the village. The local school principal tried to enroll him in primary school last year but unfortunately, Long couldn’t stay long enough to attend regularly.
Even though Samith can’t read or write, he has given up on trying to go to school. Instead, he just wants to find a better job – maybe as a construction worker – one that will earn him more money to support his family. Even while temporarily back in the village, Samith has found a way to make money by collecting and selling duck eggs.
Sadly, Long and Samith’s situation is not unique. Many school-age children are forced to migrate from remote, rural areas with their families in search of work and end up missing out on a valuable education. Through the Consortium, we are working to identify children just like Long and Samith and find solutions to help them access education.
*Names of children under 18 have been changed