Another mammoth opening day roadshow is complete, and more than 2700 students now kitted out with everything they need for the new year ahead!
That’s nearly 36,000 notebooks, 15,700 pens & pencils, 2,600 pencil cases and 270 bikes for graduating Grade 6s – all to be prepped, packaged, stickered & delivered into students’ hands.
As ever, no small feat to accomplish, but when you have the best team in the world, it’s almost like child’s play.
This year’s student demographics continue to show the tip towards secondary students, while reducing new intake at Wat Bo Primary in Siem Reap city. This is a move that we began two years ago, as we put more resources towards bigger numbers of students achieving their fullest academic potential, completing high school and going onwards to university.
Additionally, opening our Urban Learning Center last year has raised our profile in Siem Reap city, and we are attracting higher numbers of walk-ins than before. This speaks to the great need of urban poor students who don’t have the means to pay for the extra classes and curriculum content required to complete high school – a need that is only increasing post-Covid. We’ve always been open to taking walk-in students and some of our highest-flying have come to us this way. It always impresses us when young Cambodians show the gumption and confidence to take their education into their own hands, and if they possess the conviction that higher education is for them, then of course we want to help make that dream become a reality.
ULC on opening day
These students often go on to achieve great things academically – such as Rachen, now studying medicine in Phnom Penh, who came to us aged 18 for assistance in completing Grade 12. At that time, he was living with his grandmother in Siem Reap having left a very unsupportive family environment in the countryside. By contrast, his grandmother nurtured his dreams to stay in school, and the two eked out a small living selling roadside breakfast noodles to try to make this possible. With a PLF scholarship, he went on to achieve Grade A on the national exam – our first-ever student to do so – and scored in the top 500 students out of nearly 90,000 nationwide. Rachen’s academic credentials speak for themselves, but his determination and pure grit add incredible drive. For his first few years in Phnom Penh, he took a small job at a pagoda in exchange for meals and the floor to sleep on. Now he has a part-time job while studying, and continues to send money back to his grandmother as she incubates his younger sister, who also is showing great potential in class.
Despite his academic prowess, without a high school scholarship, Rachen simply would not have been able to access the rest of the curriculum needed to pass Grade 12.
Another walk-in student is Vannak, treasured member of the PLF team and leader of our workshop program. She is such a bright role model to all students who come in contact with her via the workshop sessions, which she took on just before Covid and absolutely slayed. She has especially inspired the PLF Youth group of older high school and university mentors, igniting a fire in their bellies that has led to the growth and independence of their mentorship program.
Vannak with secondary students at ULC on Opening Day
From Vannak’s lead, new mentorship networks formed, as she invited PLF uni students to appear as guest speakers to share about their majors with interested students. These students then get clear first-hand knowledge from role models who are “just like them” about how to prepare for and pull off a specific University degree. This brings into focus the reality of going to university that otherwise was not possible to envision. These sessions, combined with the wider offering Vannak has created for middle- and high-school students, has greatly contributed to our larger cohort in these grades, with Vannak more than completing the circle as a walk-in student-turned PLF team member and ambassador for education.
This year, many PLF Youth students & mentors volunteered to assist with Opening Day
Cambodia needs young people like Rachen and Vannak – as role models for the younger generation to uphold the value of education. And we therefore continue to create a space in our numbers – to ensure more exceptional students a seat at the table, giving as many opportunities as possible to those who will go on to make a difference to their peers and their communities.
Want to walk alongside students in their journeys, but not sure how?
For as little as $10 a month, you could contribute to the ongoing education of our students. $120 goes a long way in Cambodia: that’s 5 village children on the road to education, with access to school and clean drinking water for half a year. Or a million other things, all of which coalesce into the tools needed for life to change for the better!
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