Hon* lives in a remote village in Northern Cambodia. Waking up at dawn, Hon starts her day by helping with chores, cleaning, cooking, and washing her clothes in the nearby river. She then gets ready for school and meets up with her friends from her village. Together, they walk for 15 minutes to UWS Bak Kae School. Hon lines up with her classmates for registration and begins her lessons in Grade Four.
Hon knows how much her family have given up so that she can go to school. When she was 11 years old, Hon’s uncle advised her family to move villages so that Hon would have the opportunity to go to a good school - something she had never been able to do before. Her family packed up their possessions, left their home village and moved to Bak Kae Village.
During break time, Hon loves to read books in the school library with her friends. She says it was her mother who sparked her love of reading. Before Hon started school, her mother used to walk ten kilometres to the nearest market to buy books for Hon and her siblings. Khmer books were Hon’s favourite as a young girl.
“My mother now does not have to use her money from farming to buy me books to learn anymore; I have these in this school.”
Now, Hon is passionate about learning new things about the world. She particularly enjoys studying history.
“History books are my favourite. I take these home, along with Khmer and mathematics books to read in the evening.”
Hon’s mother and father recently moved to Phnom Penh as her mother fell ill and needed medical treatment that was not available in the remote region in which they live. Now, she lives with her uncle, aunt, and four cousins in their one-bedroom house. Although Hon misses her parents dearly, she loves being part of a large family.
Hon’s parents put her in charge of their family farm when they left. Hon spends her evenings and Sundays on the farm, growing rice, cashews and beans to sell. Hon is adamant that she will not miss school to work on the farm, and she attends school everyday. She is determined to improve her future.
“I see some of my friends skipping school to help their parents on their farm, but if I go and work on the farm, I will get behind on school work and my education. My life is better now with education, because when I finish school I will be able to find a lot of good jobs for me. I won’t have to work on a farm. I want to go onto studying at secondary school. In the future I will become a teacher to teach the next generation of people in my village, so they can become educated and gain skills that are beneficial for their futures, like I have.”
*Name has been changed to protect identity