A child’s right to education is the centerpiece of this story from one of our Cambodia programs.
Chenda* is ten years old and lives with her grandmother and sister in a simple house constructed of zinc on the side of a public road in Teksen Tbong community in Siem Reap, Cambodia. She has seen many changes in her young life, and some of these have been very unsettling for her. When she was seven her father died, and shortly afterwards, her mother migrated out of Siem Reap province in search of work. She did not inform the family where she was going, and her whereabouts are unknown at the moment.
Chenda’s grandmother struggled to care for the two girls and to earn enough money to look after them. She felt she could not support them to access their right to education – when Chenda was 8, she was old enough to go to school but she was not enrolled. Kaliyan Mith (KMSR), the Friends-International program in Siem Reap, works closely with this community, and when one of the social workers was conducting follow-up visits in the area, they were informed of Chenda’s situation by one of her neighbors.
KMSR went to see them, at first providing counselling to Chenda and her family. During follow up assessments they discovered that Chenda and her sister did not have birth certificates. They also found that grandmother relied on the two girls to boost her income, cutting the labels off plastic water bottles before they were recycled.
KMSR contacted the nearby public school director to have both Chenda and her sister enrolled. The girls were provided by the Kaliyan Mith team with all the materials they needed for school, including uniforms and school bags. The social worker also collaborated with the local authorities to ensure birth certificates were provided for Chenda and her sister.
After going to public school, Chenda and her sister received regular follow-up visits, both at school and at home. These follow up visits have continued throughout the year. Their social worker also spent time counselling Chenda’s grandmother to emphasize how important it is the children regularly attend school, and to help her find other ways to support the family. As a result, Chenda and her sister are now both studying happily in second grade at their local primary school!
*name changed to protect identity