Sophea* is 11 years old and studies in Grade 3 at UWS Ta Lart Thmey School. The school is located in Ta Lart Thmey village in Stung Treng province. The village is located on a river, so many community members rely on agriculture and fishing to support their families.
Sophea and her family moved to Ta Lart Thmey village 5 years ago because her family bought land in the village. They then started to grow cassava (a root vegetable, similar to a sweet potato), which they sell to men on motorbikes who drive from a nearby market town.
Sometimes Sophea helps her family on their farm after school and on the weekends, especially during the harvest season. Sophea enjoys doing these activities, particularly because it means she can help her family.
Sophea’s father studied up until Grade 3, but had to drop out of school to support his family. Her mother, Thom, dropped out of school in Grade 1. Thom had problems with her leg, and could not walk for 4 years.
“Life is difficult for me without an education because when I leave the village, I cannot read. I cannot read road signs or directions to get somewhere. During my day, I plant cassava and collect crops. I fish and collect water for my family and enjoy this. If I could choose, I would like to be a teacher, but I cannot because I don’t have the knowledge. I have no choice, I have to be on the farm.”
Thom is very happy UWS Ta Lart Thmey School has opened and her children have a chance to go to school close to home. She also thinks it will help bring her community together. Ta Lart Thmey village is a relatively young village, so creating a close-knit community is essential. Often, once the land has been fully harvested, many families leave to carry out agricultural work in another village. Thom believes having a school will mean that less families leave, making the community feel more secure and stable.
Sophea believes she is clever, and loves studying all subjects at school — Khmer, Maths, Science and Social studies — with Khmer being her favorite, and one she excels in the most at school! Sophea is very happy with the large amount of books there are to read in the UWS school library, and often reads with her best friend who is also studying at the school. In the evening, she loves to read books at home with her sister, cousin and mother.
After school, Sophea helps her mother and sister with the housework, like washing the dishes and preparing food. On the weekends, Sophea likes to fish and collect water for her family.
Sophea has three wishes for her future — to be a teacher, to help her family, and to earn money to support her family. The family sell the crops they grow, but often the price for cassova fluctuates, so there are times where their family struggle to support themselves. During times of need, the family go fishing to generate a little extra income.
Sophea is very hopeful and aspires to be a teacher when she is older. She said:
“If I did not go to school, I think I would have no job to do. I would have to help on my parents farm. When I’m older I want to be a teacher…. I need to study hard to do this. I want to work in other remote communities and help other children like me… When we have knowledge, we can change our lives and do everything.”
*Name changed to protect identity