A girl’s dream for her community

Meet Channy, a Tampuen student who, despite significant personal challenges, is furthering her education.

Sina Sam
Channy at her home
UNICEF Cambodia/2019/Chansereypich Seng

09 August 2019

Ratanakiri, Cambodia, August 2019 – Meet Channy, a Tampuen student who, despite significant personal challenges, is furthering her education. She hopes to make a positive impact in her community by one day becoming a multilingual education (MLE) teacher.

Channy experienced a shortage of local MLE teachers while she was a child. The school she attended, La En Chamka Primary School, was not implementing MLE due to this issue;

“There were not enough MLE teachers in a primary school I used to attend, it had only one MLE teacher for grade 1,” Channy recalled. Because of this experience in her own learning journey, Channy wishes to pursue a profession in teaching to be in a position to better educate children in her village.

The residents of Channy’s village are predominantly Tampuen. The Tampuen people are the largest indigenous group in Ratanakiri province; according to Multilingual Education National Action Plan 2015 – 2018, with a total population of 51,053, the Tampuen represent 43% of total indigenous population in the province.

Channy said that most people in the village do not manage to complete high school.

While her peers are typically unable to continue to grade 12, Channy has excelled, and has entered grade 12 at the Krong Banlung Boarding Secondary School. The school provides general education for grades 7 to 12, permits students from remote areas to stay in school dormitories and provides housing facilities free of charge to roughly 600 students at any given time.

The school was founded in 2006 to minimize the number of students from remote areas from dropping out.

Financial burdens have been a significant barrier to Channy’s studies, and she had not heard about the scholarship programme for disadvantaged, indigenous ethnic minority students until she entered grade 10.

She was told about the UNICEF scholarship for students from indigenous communities, created to support students in advancing their studies and finishing high school. The application process for the scholarship was simple; Channy had to fill in a form. The information in the form was then reviewed by a scholarship committee, its success determined by how well it fits the scholarship selection criteria.

Presently, Channy uses most of the annual scholarship money - a total of US $150 –  on extra tuition classes, while the rest is set aside for learning materials and other miscellaneous expenditures; “I spend 50,000 Riel (approx. US $12.5) per month for extra classes in Mathematics and Khmer Literature”, said Channy.

Channy added that, “The support from the scholarship programme that I have received since grade 11 has made my study progress better; while routine class is already sufficient for me, extra classes help me [understand lessons] better.”

Channy reviewing lessons with her friends at the Krong Banlung Boarding Secondary School.
UNICEF Cambodia/2019/Chansereypich Seng
Channy reviewing lessons with her friends at the Krong Banlung Boarding Secondary School.
Channy standing in front of her primary school.
UNICEF Cambodia/2019/Chansereypich Seng
Channy standing in front of her primary school

Most students, including Channy, stay in school from Monday to Friday. They usually travel back home on weekends to visit and help their parents.

Channy lives in shared room with 11 other female students. Her favorite subjects are history and geography.

Channy studying with her roommates at the dormitory at the Krong Banlung Boarding Secondary School
UNICEF Cambodia/2019/Chansereypich Seng
Channy studying with her roommates at the dormitory at the Krong Banlung Boarding Secondary School

On the day Channy visited her home village, she was surrounded by a supportive crowd of both the elderly and young. She has five nieces and four nephews who were running around her with smiles.

Despite this, Channy looked sad.

When asked why, she said that, “every time I visit my village I feel sad, because most of them have only a low education.” She furthered explained that, “I want to make a change for the next generation, for my nieces and nephews; to be like me and even grow up to be much better in academics than I am.”

Tumpoun children in La En Village, Teun Commune, Kon Mom District, Ratanakiri Province
UNICEF Cambodia/2019/Chansereypich Seng
Tumpoun children in La En Village, Teun Commune, Kon Mom District, Ratanakiri Province

Channy continued, “When I was visiting my hometown previously, a higher income family in my community criticized me for not helping my parents, who earn only a small income.”

However, Channy is a courageous girl. With her parents recognizing her strengths and capabilities, they have agreed to support her study plan. Because of this, she is thriving; “Despite others’ pessimistic opinions, my [parents] still encourage me to complete high school”.

According to her school principal, in the 2017-2018 school year the passing rate for grade 12 students was the third highest in the province, at 93%. In the same school year, 70% of enrolled students were from indigenous ethnic backgrounds such as the Kroeng, Tampoan, Prov, Charay, and Kavet people.

The 2018-2019 school year saw the number of indigenous students increasing, of whom 135 indigenous ethnic minority students in grade 11 and 12 received scholarship assistance while in 2017-2018, only 118 students did.

The scholarship programme for indigenous youth in Cambodia is, with the funding support from Primark and Sida, enabling ethnic indigenous youth in the remote parts of the country to pursue an academic career and to realise their potential.

The scholarship programme for indigenous ethnic minority students not only helps disadvantaged students complete their secondary education, but also gives them the credentials to study and become teachers, if they so choose. As teachers they can then teach multilingual education within their own communities – largely located in the five northeastern provinces of Ratanakiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng, Kratie, and Preah Vihear.