Serey Rath is a lively, smiling five year old girl. She comes from a family of four that lives in Kach Kor village, not far from the PPS campus.
When I ask Serey how long she has been coming to classes at the kindergarten, she frowns and thinks for a moment.
“About ten years,” she responds seriously. In fact she has attended for two years, but this must seem like a long time for a five-year-old!
The kindergarten is open to children from the local community aged three to five. It is a very important part of our programs at Phare Ponleu Selpak, because it prepares young students for their entry into mainstream schooling. Unfortunately, according to UNICEF (2007), only 12% of Cambodian children receive formal pre-schooling.
Serey’s mother, Pheng Rina, agrees that pre-school is very important for her daughter’s future education. “Kindergarten is very important because it prepares the children before they go to public school. They study the letters, the numbers, so they are ready when they come to school.” For m
ore details about the positive impacts of the kindergarten on the children and the community, check out this blog post from Phare, The Cambodian Circus.
Serey tells me that her favorite part of coming to kindergarten is playing in the playground and learning to sing songs. There have also been deeper impacts on her behavior and maturity, according to her mother. “There have been a lot of changes in Serey since she started to come to the kindergarten. Before, she never listened to others, especially her parents. Now she is polite, and respects all the neighbors. She has also learnt a lot. She knows her letters and numbers, how to sing many songs, she knows how to dress and get ready for school all by herself.”
With this positive start to her education, Serey is on the right path to a great future. “I want my daughter to be able to study whatever she wants; painting, circus, music,” says Pheng Rina. “Whatever she is interested in, I will support her to study.”
Serey herself already has clear ambitions for the future. “When I grow up,” she says, “I want to work in an NGO!” Perhaps this young student will one day graduate and work for an organization like Phare Ponleu Selpak, giving back to others the opportunities she herself is now able to access.