The Child Protection policy was updated and improved in 2019 at Phare Ponleu Selpak. In the kindergarten, the program creates a climate of security and trust between students and teachers at school, and between children and parents at home.
SOK Mochchara has been an English teacher at Phare Kindergarten for the past three years. In this interview, Mochchara tells us more about the Child Protection program and its impact on Phare Ponleu Selpak and the surrounding community in Battambang.
Photo credit: Olivia Audo
As a kindergarten teacher, what is your role in the Child Protection program?
Mochchara: I must abide by the written Child Protection policy, of course.
In the class, I asked students to create the classroom’s rules themselves. I asked them to gather together and discuss the rules we should have in the classroom on the first day of school. If everyone agrees with the rules, we will put them down on a large sheet of paper to be followed. For example, out of 8 students, 5 voted for no talking in the class and 3 opposed, so we agreed on the rule since it had the most votes.
For other aspects of Child Protection, we respect the students and never yell, threaten, or abuse them in any way. We both have the same rights, even if I’m a teacher. We play the role of a friend in our interaction with the students.
What kind of training to kindergarten teachers receive as part of the Child Protection program?
Mochchara: When I first started they gave me information about Child Protection to read. The former teacher, Maria, also provided hands-on training for all of the kindergarten teachers and capacity building related to Child Protection, positive discipline, appropriate punishments, teacher manners toward the students, and making sure students feel comfortable with teachers.
As a teacher, what do you do during your day?
Mochchara: I don’t just concentrate on teaching, but I also give the students emotional support and help them feel at home while they are in school. They learn and play at the same time, and they enjoy it.
They enjoy spending time in school and are not afraid to do so. We don’t shout at them to do this or that and we don’t force kids to do what they don’t want to do. Sometimes they don’t enjoy the lesson, so we can’t force them to learn it. Sometimes they want to learn something else, so we are flexible to their preferences. When they are happy, sometimes they return to what we want them to learn.
Photo credit: Olivia Audo
Have you seen any improvements in the community since Phare implemented the Child Protection policy?
Mochchara: After the two years I’ve been here and seen the implementation of the Child Protection policy, kids are more brave, and they feel welcomed at school. By contrast, in my own childhood experience, teachers yelled at students, and I felt terrified to go to school.
The kindergarten students are eager and excited to study at Phare Ponleu Selpak. They feel like teachers are their friends. When they have questions, they don’t hesitate to ask. They also share their feelings if they are not happy at home, and they tell teachers when they arrive to class. They are honest with what they want, feel, and do, and they are not afraid of asking.
As this Child Protection policy continues to be applied, parents and students are both starting to like going to school, even if it is on the weekends. Students tell us things like, “Teacher loves me and never yells at me,” and “I can take in the lesson very well.”
We see the changes from when they first arrived to now. Their parents used to shout at them for eating food, but here teachers are encourage them to eat. Later on, the kids eat for themselves and know what to do. They change their habits from not eating to eating, from being lazy to learning, and eventually they love to learn. We don’t force them like before; they know their jobs now.
However, if their mother or father yells at them at home, they don’t want to stay there and they wish for a quick morning so they can get to school. At the school gate, teachers also advise parents not to shout or yell at their students because now the kids will tell their teachers if their parents yell, hurt, or threaten them.
Do you think there are some areas which can still be improved in terms of the Child Protection program?
Mochchara: Some parents apply the Child Protection policy, and they see the positive impacts, but some families don’t follow it because they keep their kids with their grandparents. Because the parents are busy with their full-time job, when they get home and see their kids not studying, sometimes they yell at them to learn. During school break, students still want to come to school. Some families complain that their kids sometimes change their attitudes if the school break takes too long.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
Mochchara: I love my job, and I feel like it is my second home. I love everything here, and the students are like my kids. I feel happy coming to work every morning.
At Phare Ponleu Selpak, the Child Protection policy isn’t just a document to sign; it’s something that all staff, volunteers, and visitors have to abide by while working here. Teachers help families and children to understand why it’s so important to adopt a gentle approach to education where communication is key.
As SOK Mochchara said, it isn’t easy for everyone to understand and apply these rules, but things can change with everyone’s help.
Ready to make a difference in the lives of Cambodian children? Contribute to the collective child sponsorship at Phare Ponleu Selpak today and create a positive impact in the whole community.