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Educate a Child School for All

Mon 12 Dec 2016 | |

© CCOSC/AEA 2016

In Cambodia, children with disabilities face social stigma and many do not go to school. Through a partnership with EAC, one charity is getting them into the classroom and watching them thrive.


Wearing a white blouse with Hello Kitty on it, Channa* buries her head in her hands on her classroom desk.


The 12-year-old, from a village in Kandal province, southeastern Cambodia, was born with a hole in her heart and has Down Syndrome. The little girl struggles to get a sentence out because of her disability.


“But it’s important that she gets a chance to go to school and receive an education,” says Vannara Sreymom, a teacher at Ang Snuol Primary and Secondary school.


Sadly, many children in the southeast Asian country are forced to skip class due to reasons out of their control, including poverty, ethnicity, location, and, disability.


According to 2015 research by the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children (CCOSC), 13 per cent of children aged between six and 15 who are not enrolled in studies are disabled. The most common disability is intellectual, and includes problems with remembering or concentration. The next common is problems with communicating.   


Many with disabilities are ostracised by society, who believe they don’t deserve to get an education. Children with disabilities are more likely to be beaten by other children at school, research shows.

Channa, who was abandoned in her village and adopted by a Cambodian family when she was just two weeks old, only began going to school when she was ten.


Her adoptive mother thought that because she had a disability she could not enrol in studies.


But Rabbit School Organisation (RSO), a partner of Aide et Action (AEA) spoke to her family so they knew they could and should send Channa to school. RSO, who work across Cambodia, provide educational and therapeutic activities for children with disabilities who were out of school.


Today Channa goes to Ang Snuol where she attends some classes with other children who have disabilities or learning problems.


She learns consonant and traces letters to learn the alphabet, and enjoys playing with the other children and the teacher.


Vannara admits that it’s often hard to control Pang’s behaviour in class, but says “she’s learning fast”.


A partnership between Educate a Child and AEA will allow nearly 60,000 children who are out of school in Cambodia to enrol and complete their primary education by the end of 2017.


Just over 40,000 children have already returned to their studies thanks to EAC’s support.


Some 20,000 are receiving cash and learning materials through the CCOSC program. It is being carried out by AEA with 20 other organisations in Cambodia.


Pieh Pavnheanpanha, nine, is a slow learner. She attends classes alongside Channa at Ang Snuol.

“I like the classroom and my friends,” she says as the pair blow bubbles together with the boys.


“I’m happy to come to school because I want to learn.”


*Channa is pseudonyms in accordance with AEA Child protection policy.