Oftentimes impoverished parents are obliged to leave their children behind in search of work, leaving them to shoulder the burden of caring for themselves and other family members. This occurrence impacts negatively on school-retention rates.
An only child, 12-year-old Sreyneat* spends a large part of her day caring for her elderly grandparents while her parents work far from the village to earn money to send her to school. With such a weight on her shoulders, reading is a pastime that brings her joy and a sense of peace.
Growing up in a village where illiteracy is common, Sreyneat does not take her education for her granted. Her school library, supported by EAA and AEA, now houses a wide selection of books for Sreyneat and her schoolmates to read. Even during her breaks at school, she can be found there with her head buried in the pages of a book; often a welcome escape from the realities of her daily life and a good source of useful information for areas in her life outside of school.
“Reading improves my knowledge. I’ve already learned about the importance of good hygiene, how to garden and how to be a good student from these books!” she says. Sreyneat takes up to three books home per month and enjoys reading to her parents when she can. “My parents are very proud of me,” Sreyneat says wistfully, revealing how much she misses them when they are gone.
When her parents are away, Sreyneat, like many other children of migrant parents, is responsible for housework and preparing food before school. Afterwards, she returns home to cook her grandparents’ meals, but still manages to squeeze in time for reading and homework. Her favourite subject in school is Khmer language and she loves to read books in both Khmer and English. When she completes her education, she dreams of entering the civil service and serving her country.
Unfortunately, Sreyneat’s situation is far from unique. With large populations of Cambodia’s poor living in rural areas, many parents are forced to migrate to towns and cities to earn a living. Typically, this results in children staying behind in the care of their grandparents or migrating with their parents to work and thus missing out on their right to education altogether. Together, EAA and AEA worked throughout Cambodia to identify the most marginalised OOSC, provide holistic support and increase their access to a brighter future through quality primary education. Ultimately, this successful initiative reached a total of 59,592 OOSC.