Readying Remote Indigenous Children for Primary Schooling

by Mom Chantara Soleil

Almost two thousands more of small children from remote indigenous communities in Ratanakiri will be covered by activities to ready them for primary schooling – thanks to a new four-year cooperation between Plan Cambodia and the European Union.

Though improving, education access and quality in the northeastern province remains a challenge. And it is worse for pre primary schooling, making it a priority of the local authorities.

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Mar. 26 launched Plan and EU project of more than one million US dollar to nurture full potential of small children is well aligned with the provincial priority through partnership with the Department of Education.

“About 28 percent of children under six, especially those living in Banlung city, in Ratanakiri can access pre-primary education,” said Mrs. Chan Kham Khoeur, Head of the Provincial Department of Education, adding that the rate is much lesser among children in remote community.

Plan’s Programme Unit Manager in Ratanakiri, Mr. Phen Bunthoeun, underlined extreme poverty, language barrier and limited preschool access as the main causes behind early dropout at primary school.

Plan’s Early Childhood Care and Development Project Officer in Ratanakiri, Mr. Sok Yim, explained the approach the child right organisation uses to address the issues: “Finding shows that only volunteer teachers from the community understand needs of local children.”

“The teachers speak both the national and local languages better understood by those children, plus they know the location quite well. With them the children are not shy,” he added.

Years of experience of the Head of Provincial Department of Education, who is an indigenous woman herself, shows that: “If small children can experience pre-school, then they will have a foundation of knowledge with better physical and mental health, and they will be able to socialize better. And students who finish pre-primary school have a much better chance of graduating through Grade 6. I welcome Plan’s work because more preschools are needed.”

Inclusion of the less privileged indigenous children for better opportunities to seize equal share of the country’s development is the top agenda of Plan Cambodia’s expansion to one of the poorest province 17 months ago.

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