Dear friends of ISF,
As we start the New Year, we'd like to send you a note to thank you for your amazing support.
2018 was a successful and exciting year here at ISF. We welcomed 80 new students into our Catch-up Education Programme and celebrated another 80 students graduating from the programme and progressing to state school. The last quarter of the year was exam-focused and we were delighted to see 90% of our catch-up students pass their exams with flying colours in October and progress two grades.
The new academic year started in November 2018 and 218 students, 48% of whom are female, are currently catching up on missed education at our two education centres. Among the new cohort is nine-year-old Tey* who’s first day at ISF, was her first ever experience of school. “I am very happy to have the chance to study at ISF” she tells us. “When my parents told me that I was selected, I cried because I was so excited - I really wanted to study but my parents could not afford it”. She describes feeling “very nervous as well as happy” on her first day of school. However, after quickly making new friends and getting to know her teachers, Tey’s nerves have subsided and now after just six weeks at ISF, she has started to feel at home. “I feel that ISF is my home and I want to come to study at ISF every day including on weekends” she beams. “I promised myself, all my teachers and my parents that I will study hard and be a good student".
When a student graduates from ISF’s Catch-up Education Programme, it means that they have attained the necessary grade for their age to enable them to enter state school. In 2018, we supported 323 catch-up students to go to state school where they study Khmer, Social Science, Math and sciences. ISF supports them to attend state school and provides students with uniforms, school materials, breakfast and lunch, and monthly food parcels for their families. In addition to this, they continue to have access to all of ISF’s projects, including English and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) lessons, extra-curricular activities, employment training and vocational support.
Ratana*, currently a grade 10 state school student, moved from her hometown in Cambodia’s south eastern province of Kampong Cham to Phnom Penh to live with her aunt when she was just eight years old. She was hopeful that Phnom Penh could offer her a chance at receiving a better quality of education than her hometown but unfortunately her parents couldn’t afford to send her to school when she arrived. Instead, she joined ISF and quickly developed a passion for learning. After just one year in ISF’s Catch-up Education Programme, Ratana joined state school.
Today, Ratana is 16 years old and began grade 10 in November 2018. Ratana’s favourite subjects are Khmer and Math and in the future she dreams of being a teacher of either subject. At ISF, she enjoys taking English classes and playing football with her friends. Since joining ISF and taking her education seriously she is happy to have found focus and to concentrate on her future: “Before ISF, I didn’t work hard at school and didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future. But now, I’ve been studying hard both at school and at home, and along the way, I’ve realised what I want to achieve and I feel proud of myself” she explains.
Despite many students sharing a similar passion for learning and determination to succeed as Ratana, absenteeism still remains our biggest challenge. To tackle this, we have a number of approaches. One is to arrange regular meetings with our teachers and social workers with the students’ parents to encourage good attendance and adequate parental supervision. By increasing parental involvement in education, we can improve attitudes towards education and encourage parents to spend more time assisting their children and monitoring their school work. We also understand that many of our students, especially as they grow older, feel pressure to bring home an income, to support their families. In response to this, we run an Employment Project which teaches students vocational skills and even assists in finding them suitable part-time work while they continue their studies. Ensuring our students receive a quality education is at the heart of what we do.
As we start the new calendar year, we’re reflecting on a year of achievements and successes – and looking forward to what 2019 will bring. Your contribution is supporting some of the most disadvantaged children in Cambodia to access comprehensive education, healthcare and sport. On behalf of all of us at ISF, thank you for supporting our students and their families to change their lives and futures.
*Names of children under 18 years old have been changed.
Tey*, new ISF catch-up student
Ratana*, ISF state school student