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Local teachers are the backbone of a village

Sat 3 Jan 2015 | Ethnic Minorities | CARE International (CI)


Thong Lean Thavy stands at the front of her class of grade one students in Team Leu Village, gently prompting them to call out the words she is pointing to on the blackboard.


She looks around the room and sees one girl who is shyly looking at the ground, not calling out in unison with the class. She walks over and kneels next to her, coaxing the small girl who shifts in her seat, eventually parrots the correct answer, and smiles.


At 27 years of age, Thavy is a young role model to the children in her class and her two young children who are yet to start school. She didn’t go to school herself, yet here she is teaching the future leaders of her village in not one, but two languages.


‘When I was young the village was very dirty and not so happy. Many people could not read or write and there was no place to study.’


Eight years ago, the community of Team Leu agreed to be involved in an education program that is now funded by Educate A Child (EAC) through the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children, led by Aide et Action. It is implemented in Highland communities by CARE.


The elders selected villagers to be trained to teach at the bilingual school – which provides a gateway for indigenous children to access state run secondary schools where Khmer is the only language used.


Now the bilingual community school has been adopted into the state school system. Thavy explains that ‘because we want to keep our language and tradition it’s important to speak our native language, Kreung. But the children need to know Khmer in order to go outside the village.’


She was just 19 years old when she was nominated for teacher training, and was initially daunted by the responsibility. ‘My father was the Village Chief and he and the other elders selected me to become the teacher. Before that I was planting rice. They said they needed a woman, who could speak very well. I thought: why did they select me? I am a woman, and I am young!’


Now, I am very happy and proud that I became a teacher. Before I could not read or write, but now I have done the teacher training and study, and have come to work. I use my salary to buy medicine, clothes, kitchen materials and to support my family. I hope the girls in my class are happy to become teachers too,’ she says.


Judging by the adoring gaze from the small girl in the back row, it looks like Team Leu will continue to produce strong female teachers in the future.