Heng, who's on the road to success
It's been an incredible year and we owe it all to you! Thanks to your continued support, we've been able to accept 84 marginalised children into our accelerated learning catch-up programme, bringing our total number of catch-up students to 218. Of these 84 new students, aged 8-11, 44% had never had the chance to go to school before and therefore joined our grade 1 classes. All our students are receiving 2 school meals per day, six days a week, healthcare and vaccinations as well as access to safe play spaces. To ensure they stay in school, their families also receive nutritional support and the opportunity to enroll in skills and vocational training through ISF's community projects.
This academic year 2019/2020, we are also supporting a total of 438 students to study at state schools. Nine students who graduated from grade 9 in August 2019 have won a 50% scholarship to study at the Academy of Careers and Technology (ACT), an accredited general technical high school for grade 7-12. The school allows students to study a combination of general education with technical skills of their choice towards earning high school diplomas.
Furthermore, we currently support 14 students in tertiary education as well as 57 youth in our employment project. One of these students is Heng*. This recent state school graduate started with ISF in grade 5 and we’ve had the pleasure of watching him flourish. Through hard work and dedication, this ambitious youth rose to the top of an English Language Speaking Contest ISF held earlier this year. Prizes included a trophy and the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong for a weeklong language immersion trip. Now, we’re once again proud to announce that Heng has been accepted to not only one, but two, universities. During the day he’ll continue his English studies at one of Cambodia’s flagship universities; the Institute of Foreign Languages, which is a part of the Royal University of Phnom Penh. In the evenings, Heng will chase his dream to become an architect at Norton University. He took a moment out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his life at ISF and optimistic plans for the future.
As a budding architect, Heng describes his trip with ISF to Hong Kong as absolutely inspiring. “Oh wow, they have very wonderful architecture. A lot of types of building designs with differen advantages, like building a football field on the roof! They don’t have a lot of land so they build up. It’s very smart!”. His dream is to take those world-class engineering techniques and mix them with traditional Khmer design to build progressive, sustainable and modern Cambodian architecture.
As part of the field trip, he also visited two English Schools Foundation (ESF) schools, West Island and KGV schools which exposed him to an educational system different from his own. He came away with an admiration for the experiential way of learning he saw, where students learned through a mix of lecture and lab work.
ESF is the largest provider of English-medium international education in Hong Kong. ISF have recently began a three-year partnership with them to review our Education Programme and develop a strategy to further improve its impact.
Heng credits ISF with helping him develop computer competency, soft skills, and higher-level English conversation. In particular, he stated that his English lessons at ISF have made him more confident. “Because I have experience at ISF, it’s easy to talk to people and understand what they’re doing.”
At home, he says his family is supportive of him as he enters a new life as a university student. Heng's mother is a home-maker and part-time librarian at one of ISF’s community libraries, and his father is a moto-taxi driver. Neither have had higher education.
When talking about beginning this new stage in his education, he expresses the heady mix of exhilaration and dread we all face at life’s big changes. “At first, I feel excited but a little bit nervous. It’s a new school and I don’t know [anyone].” Though Heng seems to be coming to terms with it all, “But now it’s OK, I know I can make friends.”
ISF will continue to support Heng on his educational journey. While he pursues higher education, he will have access to ISF facilities and counselors and will receive support such as school supplies, a laptop and food parcels, which will still be sent to his family monthly to alleviate financial stress. Our aim is to give him, and other students like him that graduate each year, the best possible footing when entering university. With 98% of ISF students progressing to the next grade and 80 new graduates going on to state school, we hope to support many more in the future. For now, we‘ll be rooting for Heng until he receives his cap and gown and beyond.
On behalf of all of us at ISF, thank you for your amazing support over the past year!
The ISF team
*Names of children and youth receiving ISF's support have been changed.