Exam time in Cambodia is riddled with stress. Girls feel the pressure – how they perform in their exams can determine the rest of their life. Will they find meaningful work or will they return to their home, limited to a domestic life with no prospects for breaking their family out of poverty?
Our LOA GATE girls have typically achieved higher than the national average in their exams – but not all our girls are guaranteed to pass. Most of our girls have experienced endless barriers to their education – that’s why they were chosen for scholarships.
Many of our girls experienced severe malnourishment as children. Some were set back even in the womb – mums who had to work throughout their pregnancy, in taxing physical jobs, just to feed themselves. Unfortunately this impacts on brain development, and many of our girls are behind the bar before they even get to school.
Then the early years of school happens. Boys are sent to school everyday with almost no hesitation. Girls on the other-hand are still expected to cook and clean, look after younger siblings, and simply stay home when parent can only afford to send one and must choose between their son or their daughter. Missing class during the foundational years of school can put a girl so far behind that she may never catch up.
Yet LOA doesn’t discriminate – we believe that all children have the right to an education, and all are worth investing in, whether they will top their year or not.
Chansocheata is one such girl – once identified to receive a scholarship through LOA, she put every effort into her studies. Her family learnt about the importance of educating girls, and started supporting her to attend school every day. Unfortunately Chansocheata failed her class 12 exams in 2017. At that point she could have given up and stayed home to help her mum, but through LOA counselling, she decided to give it another try.
An important part of the LOA GATE scholarship is the counselling and support that girls receive. Not only do they get counselling if they are at risk of dropping out of school, but they also have a lot of guidance leading up to finishing school. Our in country partner, Lotus Outreach Cambodia (LOCAM) researches opportunities for girls who finish school but don’t get into university. Vocational training can provide girls with skills they need to get themselves and their families out of poverty.
LOA GATE Girls now have a variety of opportunities through the relationships LOCAM has developed with vocational training organisations such as PNC, a well established computer programming course, and Happy Chandara, a hair and beauty training program.
Chansocheata failed her exams again this year, but her future is still bright. Before sitting her exams, Chansocheata had already visited Sala Bai, a hospitality training program in Siem Reap, where she was accepted for training. She will be moving to Siem Reap with another GATE scholarship recipient, and will be monitored throughout her program by LOCAM.
LOA and our in country partners make every effort to ensure that our support doesn’t stop after school. Chansocheata is one of nine girls who finished class 12 this year. Let’s see what their futures bring.
(In-Country Liaison Officer)Back to Stories from Cambodia