Poverty is one of the reasons which keep children, especially girl, away from education. Credit services run by micro-finances have been growing widely across Cambodia and in many cases as it is easy to access – sometimes it is just in front of their door -- people living in poverty become the victims of this development and become poorer and poorer after falling into the economic trap when they cannot pay back to the micro-finance after deciding to use its services.
To pay back to the debt, poor people have to force themselves out of the village to work in many different locations including garment factories and rubber plantation farms and it is even worse when the parents forcefully stop their children from going to school to earn money for paying the debt as well; it also happened to 13 target primary schools in Kampong Thom province of ActionAid Cambodia’s partner, Old Age and Miserable Help Organization (HOM), as well where 36 children (18 girls) were forced to quit school to earn extra income for their families.
In 2014, two girls among other 9 (6 girls) named Ny Layheak aged 12 years old and Va Chhavay aged 14 years old were forced to leave their school named Kohkrobay in Kampong Ko commune to take care of their younger siblings and work with their parents at rubber tree plantation in Sandan District in Kampong Thom province which is 125 kilo meter away from their village.
By seeing so, in 2014, ActionAid Cambodia and HOM started operating education programme focusing mainly on Promoting Rights in Schools (PRS) which is a very powerful tool to monitor how all ten rights (1. Right to free and compulsory education, 2. Right to non-discrimination, 3. Right to adequate infrastructure, 4. Right to quality trained teachers, 5. Right to a safe and non-violent environment, 6. Right to relevant education, 7. Right to know your rights, 8. Right to participate, 9. Right to transparent and accountable schools, and 10. Right to quality learning) have been applied to make quality of education in their school better.
This tool has been sensitized by HOM to community, School Support Committee (SSC), School Management Committee (SMC), commune council, and children. In addition to this, in 2015, we also facilitated the participatory community action research by using this PRS to understand the main issues of education in the 6 out of 13 primary schools of HOM and produced School Improvement Plan (SIP) based on these PRS research findings.
Through ongoing reflections on SIP between HOM and SSC, the three primary school out of the six in Kampong Ko commune have been implementing their SIP step by step and KohKrobay primary school where the two girls attended is one among them which keeps moving forward including construction of new school fence, a place for relaxing and reading during break time, and rubbish bin placing, etc.
More importantly, one special activity among the other 17 activities from SIP named "Consultation with Parent at Home to Send Their Children Back to School" has been gradually done by teachers and representatives of SSC. With these above interventions, layheak and Chhavay as well as the others have been back to their school this year, 2017, and the two are now in grade 5.
"I am so happy to be back to school and the school looks very different and more beautiful because there are more progress such as larger compound and no more flood, nice new fence, nice place for breakfast and a venue for relaxing and reading the books during break time," Chhavay happily shared, "I will not quit school again as it is niced and my parent will not let me to work to earn money again; they want me to go to school only."