One of the schools we have taught in for a few years is in the slum area of Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. The school pays the family of the students 50kgs of rice each month so the children attend school. Otherwise the parents attempt to keep the children home so they can earn money for the family.
One student particularly stood out to me when I was teaching at a school in the slums. Although I don’t remember the clothes the boy wore or even his first name, he will be fixed in my mind forever. He sat at the back of a small classroom by himself and continuously worked quietly. He was reserved and didn’t speak to the other students very often, during breaks or even in class. I wanted to make sure that he was ok, so I spoke to him at the end of the school day. He said that he just wanted to learn, so that he could provide for his family in the future. Looking at the boy who was only two years younger than me, I was so impressed by his selflessness for his family and his determination towards his education. Many of these children shared this resilience.
Despite their parents’ lack of access to education, children of Cambodia are able and willing to change the education gap. The students I have taught over the last two years are so eager to learn. Even with the scarce amount of writing tools, exercise books and desks, the children find enjoyment in being educated and learning
Education is a gift that we sometimes take for granted, but for many in our world it is a right that is denied. From my experience, it can transform individuals and communities so that they may overcome the difficulties of the past and create a brighter future in which they and those around them can break the cycle of poverty.