Schools in Cambodia are traditionally not equipped for children with disability, but ChildFund Cambodia’s New Generation Schools are providing a safe environment where all students can reach their potential.
Nine-year-old Vireak was born with no left foot, making it difficult for him to participate in sports and games. Since he started studying at his local New Generation School, supported by ChildFund in cooperation with local organisation Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE) and the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, life has become much easier.
His school is equipped with new infrastructure, and the staff and community have become more involved with students, through investments in quality teaching, school leadership and management, and community engagement.
“I am happy to see my school looking new, clean and equipped with books, materials and tablet computers. I am happy to learn and play around with all these new things,” Vireak says.
He has also noticed a change in the attitudes of his classmates and teachers. “I don’t feel any discrimination from my classmates nor my teacher,” he says. “I feel motivated and they are supportive. I like to go to the library to use the reading kit, the tablet and watch educational videos during break time.”
Three years ago, Niem could not read or write properly, despite being in Grade 3. Due to learning difficulties, Niem had also repeated first, second and third grades multiple times, and was struggling to continue her primary school education. However, once she was assigned to Ms Lich`s class, everything changed.
Ms Lich, a teacher at a ChildFund-supported primary school in rural Vietnam, has been dedicated to assisting children with learning difficulties for her whole career. Therefore, when Niem was absent from class for the first week of the new school year, Ms Lich visited Niem`s family home to find out what was happening. She discovered that both Niem and her parents were reluctant for her to go to school. They were worried that she would repeat again and her classmates would tease her.
Ms Lich did her best to persuade Niem`s parents to let her continue her education. She promised them that she would teach Niem how to read and write, so that she would not repeat again. With further encouragement from Niem`s elder sister, who Ms Lich had also helped overcome learning difficulties, Niem and her parents decided that she would go back to school.
Throughout the school year, Ms Lich kept her promise to Niem. She paid special attention to her during class, tutored her after school, and regularly visited her family to update them about her progress. By the end of the year, Niem was able to read, write, and do maths by herself, meeting the requirements to move onto Grade 4 with her other classmates.
“My teacher helped me to read until I was confident to volunteer to read before the class. Ms Lich and all of my other classmates clapped their hands to encourage me and that made me very happy,” says Niem.
Niem is now in Grade 5 and more confident than ever before. Although Ms Lich is no longer her teacher, Niem continues to study hard as she wants to do her proud, and hopes to complete high school in the coming years.
“I am very proud of my career as a teacher. I still love my job and really want to devote myself to helping more children in remote areas,” says Ms Lich.
Recently, the Provincial Department for Education and Training awarded Ms Lich for her great work with children who have learning difficulties. With Ms Nong, the former School Manager also advising that Ms Lich is a “very devoted teacher and a good example for us to follow”.