Growing Up in Cambodia: Nuon Sreytoch aged 16
© UNICEF Cambodia/2012/Cori Parks
Nuon Sreytoch, aged 16, looks after her sick grandmother who is in hospital.
As told to Cori Parks
Svay Rieng, Cambodia, December 2012 - My name is Nuon Sreytoch. I’m 16 years old. I am in the 7th grade at Chantrea High School, but I have missed two weeks of school now to take care of my grandmother who is sick and staying in this hospital. The doctor thinks she should be here for six more weeks and I have to stay with her.
I am the fourth daughter of six girls in my family. I have no brothers. My three older sisters are finished with High School and work in the factory down the road from this hospital. They cannot miss work to care for our grandmother. My two younger sisters are too young to stay with her and continue to go to school. I am sad about falling behind in school, but have no choice. I must miss school to help my family.
I have not been home in two weeks. At night, my mother or my aunt comes to sleep with us and bring us food. Then they go back to work in the rice fields during the day, but I stay here.
I am already older than most 7th graders because I started first grade late. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to school at the right time when my three older sisters were already in school. Also, the school is far from my house, so they waited until the others were finished and I was big enough to go on my own.
I love school. I especially love to read and study Khmer. I am always in the top five students in my class and usually I am number one. When I think about the future I know that I want to be a doctor. Most girls know they’ll work in a factory or casino and my friends want to be teachers, but I want to contribute to the development of Cambodia as a doctor, helping sick people. I don’t know how I will become a doctor. It is expensive and will take a long time, but I like my studies and am willing to do anything I can to keep studying. That’s why missing school is so difficult right now. I am torn for my love of learning and my love for my grandmother.
I hope to be a doctor one day, but what worries me the most is that I won’t have any kind of job in the future. I don’t think about it much right now though. My friends make me very happy. I have many close friends and they are sending me messages asking me to return to school. I miss them and really want to go back.
This is my life. I might be 21 years old when I finish High School. I started late and now I am busy with family obligation, but I will go back and I will finish. This is my commitment to myself.