This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating four young women – Sophea, Porka, Phaiia, and Varnsi – who are facing a brighter future after completing their education at the Svaychey village school. These four girls no longer face the poverty cycle that results from lack of education; they have been accepted to the Australian Centre for Education (ACE) in Siem Reap and began their study in early 2017.
The Realities of Education in Cambodia
Access to education is something we take for granted in Australia. With the majority of Australian girls completing year 12 our experience is a stark contrast to Cambodia where attending school can change a girl’s entire life.
Only 32% of children go on to secondary school in Cambodia and only a small percentage of these are girls. Incomes are low and life is difficult. For a young girl with very little prospect of earning an independent income marriage becomes the only option for putting food on the table. This is the reality that faces girls in Cambodia who cannot access education.
Path Porka, the youngest of four children in a farming family is already planning how she can share the ongoing blessings of this opportunity. She stated in her ACE application, ‘I want to help the children to get the knowledge and get a good job in their future’.
Reaching level 12 English qualifications and achieving a diploma costs just under AU$2000 at ACE. With the average Cambodian family earning less than this per annum, attendance would not be possible for Path and her friends without support. Without a diploma it is not possible to sit university entrance exams.
Humble Beginnings in Svaychey Village
The Cambodian education system was dismantled under the Khmer Rouge and the neglected educational infrastructure has been slow to recover. When the Step2Foundation began in 2012 the girls of Svaychey village had a decrepit school building and only one teacher with a teacher’s aide for over 250 students. There were no books or pencils and very little clean water.
Still, they showed up every day.
Four years of hands-on project work and dedicated fundraising by the Step2Foundation means that the school is now one of the best in their region. There are eight classrooms, eight teachers, a library, and a toilet block. The school now has electricity, operational computers, and a clean water filtration system is almost complete.
Education Makes Dreams Come True
To enrol in ACE, an international school with campuses across South East Asia, these hopeful young women had to do well at school and submit a written application.
Phaiia said on her application form, ‘I like studying English because I need it for my job. I want to go to University, to get more knowledge in the future and I want to be an English teacher at the University’.
Attending ACE means that Phaiia is well on her way to reaching this goal. On completion of her diploma she can return to Svaychey as a teacher. Already she is working with the Head Teacher to further improve her English teaching skills along with four hours of teacher training per week.
You Can Help Young Women Access Education in Cambodia
Two of these wonderful young women have regular sponsors who donate $12 per week. Regular support for the other two would make an incredible difference to their lives.
You can change the direction of a young woman’s life for the cost of lunch.
In Australia, 83% of 15-19 year old Australians are enrolled in study. These four young women are beating the odds in Cambodia where their education levels will put them in the minority and open up a safer future. For them, being bold for change was as huge, and as simple, as showing up every day for school.
Education is at the heart of the Step2Foundation’s philosophy. We support local youth by giving them employment opportunities. All of our projects are undertaken with a long-term view to contribute to a thriving, sustainable village.
Help us to celebrate this International Women’s Day by sharing our story widely.
‘The hard work that Varnsi put into being accepted to ACE highlighted how determined these young women are to succeed. Step2Foundation is thrilled to provide the support they need to complete higher education and achieve their dreams,’ said Zeynep Roberts, Foundation Founder & Director. As one of the course’s most improved students Varnsi will receive three months of free tuition.