by Sela Mao, Children’s Future Communications Associate

Pisey, a 15 year-old student once dropped out school in the third grade because her family went to work next to the Cambodian-Thai border and took her with them. Social workers reached out to her family over the phone and explained them about the benefits of education, and successfully encouraged them to return to Battambang so that she could return to school.

Since 2013, around thirty five percent of students in Cambodia have abandoned their studies due to many types of pressure. That’s why CFI plays a significant role in keeping children in public schools. CFI has help from our social workers to interact with families, the Education Advocates to work with the schools, and the children themselves.

Social workers believe that there are three important factors that prevent students from going to school or lose motivation; family, teachers, and the student themselves. Some families believe that education is time consuming, expensive and does not always ensure that their children will find a job when they finish. Teachers can interfere with the student’s education because some teachers are not dedicated to the needs of poor students if they are often late or absent. Students are the biggest factor of all because if they have a problem, specifically financial problems, and cannot focus on their studies, then they will want to stop going to school. But with the social workers’ words of motivation, students are able to find stability and try to finish their studies.

The Education Advocate, Sreyrath, also helped Pisey return to school and study successfully. She helped her get school supplies and clothes, and arranged extra classes to help her catch up. Sreyrath’s most important work is to help children develop a strong mentality and positive mindset so that they are confident in themselves, because as the Khmer saying goes, “self depends on self.” In addition to helping children reintegrate to school, she monitors their attendance and also intervenes when fees are unfairly demanded from those children who need additional help. The Advocate also has meetings with students to discuss attendance and assist with possible changes, concerns or difficulties that the children have at public school.

Students like Pisey also help CFI keep them in school by interacting with the staff and opening up to them. Pisey explained that with the help of CFI, the Education Advocate and social worker, she is inspired to stay in school, and when she has questions or problems, she knows the best thing to do is ask for support and guidance.

With the help of the social workers, Education Advocate, and her own new motivation, Pisey came back to school and continued her studies and now her class rankings are rising year by year. We have helped change this young child’s future into a bright one and she now aspires to become a doctor to help out the poor people who cannot afford health care services. All of the staff at CFI came together to help this student and thanks to their hard work and dedication we were able to help this child get back on track.

Social workers also help CFI keep children in school by interacting with them directly and their emotional needs. They have many methods with aiding the children with their mood. Social workers offer advice or find out why students are frustrated or upset. Social workers engage the students in activities that will help portray their emotions such as through painting. Social workers also have an activity called “Three Houses”. In this activity, students are asked to describe their household in the present condition. Then they are asked to describe what they think a good household is like. Lastly, the students are asked to describe a household that they aspire. This activity will let us learn certain things about the student’s household that can interrupt the student’s focus on school. With the help of the social workers, the rate of students who dropped out of school has decreased really low than five percent since the social workers were able to encourage and help motivate the students to go back to school.

*Photo and name changed to protect the privacy of the student.