Every morning I get up and take to the dirt roads that wind across the forests and rice fields of Cambodia’s Kampong Thom Province. My work as a social mobiliser for the Hun Sen Tbeng High School takes me from urban areas to rural villages, as I travel to meet students and their parents, using my scooter to get around.
It is my job to act as a mentor to girls who attend the school, and I take my work very seriously. I listen, observe carefully and encourage the students to participate in group mentoring sessions at school. When the girls are absent or have any problems, I provide them with one-to-one mentoring, visiting their homes if necessary. I make conversation with them, ask about their current challenges and provide guidance. Together, we find solutions to their problems.
The school day runs from 7am to 5pm, but I start work at 11.30am, when the students are enjoying their lunch break, which lasts from 11am to 2pm. The students who live far away pack their own lunch and bring it to school. Others, especially girls, go home at lunchtimes to help their parents with chores such as cooking, washing the dishes, looking after their younger siblings, watering the vegetable garden and caring for animals.
The school I work in is big and surrounded by a green rice field during the rainy season. It is a nice environment for the students.
However, my work takes me beyond school property, too, when I do home visits. On these occasions, I meet with the girls’ parents to ask if they have any issues related to their child’s education or wellbeing. I also work in the local community by supervising study clubs and introducing life skills knowledge to the villages.
Cambodian students face many challenges in their daily life, such as parents working in other countries or not encouraging their children to go to school. Some children must also work to earn an income or have trouble learning quickly at school.
In previous years, education in Cambodia was far below international standards because much of the population received very little education.
But now the education system has improved throughout public and private schools. The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has put more focus on quality education. This has made it easier to help students to make progress, because they are more competent than before. We now also have lower dropout rates, which makes teaching easier.
In addition, we have support from different international non-profit organisations. My role is supported by the charity Room to Read and its Girls’ Education Programme.
Through my work, I’ve seen students’ confidence grow and watched many of them become role models who show the will to change their communities. Already, attitudes are shifting. I know that with the help of these girls, it won’t be long before whole villages are motivating their daughters to have an education like boys.
Tin Phim is a social mobiliser for Hun Sen Tbeng High School and Room to Read