Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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A multi-year education project to improve school environments and strengthen teaching skills, is using technology to keep children in disadvantaged communities in Cambodia in school.

The Easy 2 Learn project, developed and implemented by ChildFund Cambodia and local partners, is transforming 17 schools across Kratie Province to help improve students’ literacy and numeracy skills and keep them engaged in classes.

In poor, rural communities across Kratie, primary school-aged children are at risk of falling behind in their classes and leaving school early because of inadequate teaching and limited educational resources and facilities. Children who leave school early often stay at home to take care of their younger siblings or enter the workforce to help support family incomes.

ChildFund’s Easy 2 Learn project has been helping to improve the quality of education in these communities by training teachers, renovating schools, and providing resources and new technology to classrooms.

Over the past three years, 17 schools have benefited from more than 23,000 books, 17 laptops, 294 tablets and 119 reading and math toolkits. The project has also helped to build two new schools, seven libraries, and three computer labs, and renovated playgrounds and classroom libraries.

Eleven-year-old Chhaly says the new library at his school has helped him to improve his reading. “I could not read well before,” he says. “Now I can. I am happy to be able to read.”

Teachers have been trained on how to develop child-friendly lessons and track students’ progress using literacy and numeracy standards. They have also been provided with tablets with an app that stores test results and provides information on how to help students improve their grades.

Parents and caregivers have also been trained on how to use different literacy tools to help their children read at home.

The Vice Chief of Chhlong District of Education in Kratie Province, Monorom, says the pass rate of students in the schools where Easy 2 Learn is implemented has increased from 70% to 82% over the past three years. The student dropout rate has decreased from 7% to 5%.

Another objective of the project has been to establish student councils and peer tutor programs. Grade 1 teacher Manich says the peer tutor program is helping to build the confidence and leadership skills of older students while also supporting younger children falling behind in their studies.

To date, the project has supported 6,000 children across 284 schools in Kratie and Svay Rieng Provinces in Cambodia.

Noy is breaking barriers through ChildFund’s Pass it Back Coach. She wrote to tell us about her experience with the program.

My name is Noy. I was born and raised in Chomphet district, Luang Prabang province. When I finished 4th grade, my family moved to Vientiane to take care of my grandmother who was getting older.

I have been a Pass It Back Coach with the Lao Rugby Federation for more than two years now. It all started from the time I saw a group of people playing a new sport called rugby at the playground of my school.

I had been watching the children playing every day and noticed that, after the games, they would sit together to talk. It was something quite strange and different compared to other sports.

Plus, the coaches were still very young! I was really impressed about that, that people who are around my age can do such work.

I looked for information and signed up to be a coach through Lao Rugby. I was thrilled when I learned that I had been selected and at the first Coach Training, I learned that I was the only one, among all the new coaches, who did not know anything about the sport of rugby! That’s how my coaching journey began.

What I love about being a coach is that I can help young people to gain their self-confidence and courage to do whatever they want. Along with the skills and knowledge I’ve learnt, Pass It Back helps me to become a more confident and open person who now dares to step out of my comfort zone and embrace new things. I also made a lot of new friends from this program, too!

I also like that I can make some income since starting my coaching job. In the past I had a daily allowance from my parents, but now I rely less on them and feel more responsible about my life and my financial status.

I have monthly salary from my job as a coach and I put some into my savings. Sometimes I give some to my parents too. Being a Coach helps me to acknowledge the value of money because this is my very first job, and I have to think carefully before I spend any.

But what I appreciate the most about being part of Pass It Back is that I have had the opportunity to build my leadership skills and I’ve grown so much from that.

As a coach, my job is to deliver life skills and rugby training to children in my community. I need to ensure that the sessions are safe and fun and that my players learn skills which they can apply to their lives.

Being a coach also means I need to be a good role model. That makes me feel responsible for what I say, and the way I behave. Other coaches and I also have the chance to practice team-working skills, in which we learn how to ensure mutual understanding, reach agreement, and resolve conflicts.

The leadership skills I have gained from being a coach has been so useful to me, not only on but off the pitch. Before, I didn’t have any courage share my voice with my parents, I thought I was just a minor. At college, I used to say no whenever I had an opportunity to be a group leader because I did not believe I was good enough.

Being a coach has helped me gain confidence, improve my communications and teamwork skills, and has made me realise that anyone can be a leader.

I now am confident enough to share my thoughts with my parents, and I even provide them with advice on family matters. At school, I’ve started taking on the role of group leader, and lead my team through group assignments. Yes, now I know that I can do it!

Last summer, during the 2-month semester break from college, I decided to apply for an internship in the Finance Department at ChildFund Laos, as I’m studying finance. I was accepted!

I gained so much valuable knowledge and experience in terms of finance work and could apply skills I’ve learnt from Pass It Back, such as making plans, setting goals, communicating well with others, and working as a team. There were of course some challenges at the beginning, but I tried my best, asked when not sure, always seeking solutions where there was a problem and I learnt from my mistakes.

At the end of the internship, the Finance Manager of ChildFund Laos asked me to stay longer, which means a lot to me. It means my support and skills are acknowledged and I am proud of that, though I had turn it down to continue my new semester at college.

When I first joined Pass It Back, my parents did not support my decision. They didn’t understand the program and they had the misperception that rugby is a violent sport and I could get hurt.

Now they have changed. They have seen that I have been given opportunities to travel, I can earn my own money, and I have become more mature. They are proud to see these changes in me. Some people in my village even said to me: “Good on you Noy! You’ve already had a job and earnt some income at this age. We’re happy for you!”

Pass It Back is an essential program for young people in Laos to have a chance to reach their full potential. The program is open to everyone, regardless of their background, sex or gender.

I want to encourage more children and young people, especially girls, to join Pass It Back. I want them to have the opportunity to learn important skills and develop themselves through sport, like I have, and ‘pass it back’ to their community.