The Phnong Education Initiative provides minority students in Cambodia with scholarships and housing assistance so they can continue to attend school. Otherwise these students would be forced to drop out of school due to poverty and/or distance from the nearest school. The indigenous minority, Phnong, survives on subsistence agriculture. Literacy rates for highland tribes are 5.3%, and females among this minority fall to 1%. Phnong Education Initiative provides children and teacher trainees with scholarship packages, and aims to change to gender imbalances.
Cherbb, a 15 year old that is in 7th grade lives with her mom, Krum in their home at Pu Haem Village. Cherbbs family and 25 other households share a large part of Phnong’s community where they continue to practice slash burn agriculture on land that sits on the edge of the ‘Mondulkrir Protected Forest’ area which has one of the largest continuous stretches of dry and semi-evergreen forests in South East Asia.
Cherbb’s community has a local primary school, by her estimation it is, “a 20 minute walk up a hill,” but the nearest secondary school is 14 kilometers away. At least half of the children from this Phnong community don’t finish their first year of high school because it becomes too far and too expensive to commute, so they are forced to drop out.
Luckily for Cherbb and her sister, their parents see the value of education and receive support from Lotus Outreach that allows them to stay in dormitory accommodations during the week and then return home for the weekends. Almost all of the PEI students work on the weekends either on the home plot or to earn money doing seasonal work when it’s available near their homes. Cherbbs mother tells us, “With an education a girl can and often will, support her family with the salary from the type of job education will ensure. Without assistance from the program, which pays for school uniforms, books, tuition and weekly stipend we also wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of transport and incidental expenses and Cherbb would have to drop out. We feel education is important and valuable, but we can only do what’s affordable for us. We are very thankful for the support”
Cherbb is very happy to have transitioned from primary school into 7th grade, “its my dream to teach English at lower secondary school level, I am very keen to learn English"
The Phnong people have been living in mud floor dwellings with wood and thatched roof huts for hundred of years. The Phnong community lives 40kms from then nearest health clinic. Infant mortality although preventable, is very common problem. Cherbbs mother spoke of her experience with this, “I actually had 4 children and two died of diarrhea, one at 4 months and one only a week old. Even though we only have two children, I'm not well and use the birth control pill to avoid pregnancy. We drink water from a ring well not far up the hill and boil it to avoid infections.”
The traditions and culture of the Phnong are difficult to hang on to, as interest in preserving their culture becomes less important than their immediate survival. Cherbbs mom expressed, “We will continue to support Cherbbs education as best we can until she finishes year 12 and becomes a Lower Secondary School Teacher”. Given that no one else in the village has ever achieved more than a 10th grade education, Lotus Outreach is encouraged to assist students such as Cherbb as long as possible. We will continue to support them towards a goal of higher education and an overall well being to in the Ethnic Phnong communities of Cambodia.
Thank you to all the supporters who allow young students like Cherbb to attend school, Lotus Outreach couldn't do it without you!
Cherbb(second to the right) and friends
Cherbb and her sister husking rice
PEI girls at school with teachers and Glenn