Thanks to the extraordinary engagement of local communities and authorities, an early learning programme for ethnic minority children in Ratanak Kiri in northeast Cambodia looks set to have a long-lasting impact.
Pre-school education in Ratanak Kiri is often affected by the remoteness of communities, yet the local population are keen to work together to ensure children get the best start in life.
An example of this is a project run by Plan Internation Cambodia alongside local partner Bandos Komar and funded by the European Union and Plan International Germany. The 3-year project has led to discussions between parents and commune councils to take the lead in promoting pre-school education and subsidising sanitary facilities and providing breakfast for the children attending the pre-schools.
To date, almost 1,000 children in 25 villages in the province are benefiting from the project which will be handed over to the department of education, commune councils and parents themselves in a few months.
Commune leader Tha Bunlot says, “As an authority, we will work hard with parents to make early childhood education last in our community.”
One of the parents says, "We've built the pre-schools for our kids so they won't have regrets like us when they grow up."
Pisey, Kongkea and Roch didn't have the chance to attend pre-school classes and initially struggled when they started primary school aged, 9 and 11. They said, “I was so embarrassed because others were better than me. I copied others, as I didn't understand the lesson. The teacher hit me. I repeated grade 1. I felt unprepared and regretted it.”
I was so embarrassed because others were better than me.
Bandos Komar’s Khim Sokkhom says, “Seeing the strong engagement of the community in the project inspires me to work harder and makes me proud.”
Plan International Cambodia’s Early Childhood Care and Development Specialist Soth Sakan credits the enthusiasm and achievement to increased community awareness on the important investment in early education so children and their communities can create a better future.