Monday, August 12, 2013

Growing up in Cambodia: Vet Bo aged 16

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, 5 August 2013 - Vet Bo should be in Grade 10 at school with children of his age, however, he recently completed Grade 6 with 11-year-olds because he lacked the required transfer documents to prove his level of attainment at each school he attended during his family’s frequent moves around Cambodia as they looked for work.

“My name is Vet Bo and I am 16 years old. I live in Trapaing Anhchanh [commune]. My house is simple: it is made of cement and the roof is made of metal sheets. I live with both of my parents, my younger brother who is in the same class as me, my little sister and my little brother.  I just finished Grade 6.

I was born in Kun Thak Bopha hospital in Phnom Penh and used to live in Boeung Salang [Sangkat], Phnom Penh.  I moved from Phnom Penh to a district in Kampot [province] and then moved back to Phnom Penh but to a different commune: Kouk Banh Choan. After that, I moved again to a different place called Phum Russey [village] in Phnom Penh. Finally, I moved to Trapaing Anhchanh. I have moved around a lot because of my family’s poor living standard. 
©UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Bona Khoy

Vet Bo, 16, should be in Grade 10 at school but his lack of school transfer documents 
have resulted in him being in a class with 11-year-olds.
I started Grade 1 in Boeung Salang when I was 6 years old. But I started Grade 1 again when we moved to my parents’ hometown in Kampot after we had sold our house. I studied there from Grade 1 to Grade 3 but after that my parents brought me back to Phnom Penh because they couldn’t find any jobs. I studied there in a school from Grade 1 to Grade 2 in Kouk Banh Choan commune. After that, we moved to Phum Russey which is also in Phnom Penh. There, I studied from Grade 1 again until Grade 6. Then, we moved to Trapaing Anhchanh when my teacher helped me to transfer my school documents so that I could continue studying in Grade 6 at Trapaing Anhchanh primary school. 

I feel sad and regretful to have repeated my school years back and forth just because my family was poor. And I feel ashamed that I’m this old but am still studying in the lower primary school. If I had only studied in Boeung Salang until now, I might have been in Grade 10 instead. 

I go to school because I want to be educated. There is nothing that I don’t like about school! 

My hobby is to play football with my friends during break times. I have more than 10 good friends in school and they are ones that I often play football with. They are my good friends because they talk to me and don’t look down on me. During break times I also like to go to the shop to buy snacks with friends or go to library to read. I like to read short stories and vocabulary and grammar books. I go to the library every day. When I’m not in school, I normally help my family to prepare food and feed our ducks. On Thursdays after school, I go to a centre to ride horseback, study Khmer and English and learn about computers.
©UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Bona Khoy
Vet Bo enjoys everything about school and likes to read short stories,
and vocabulary and grammar books in the school library.

The happiest moment I remember is when my church group brought me to the [shopping] mall. I go to church every Sunday to sing songs and join meetings. I started going there two months ago. I am sad when my parents have arguments at home because our neighbours and other people around us will think that we are not a good family. It also makes me sad when my parents blame me for going out in the evenings but I accept that it is my fault. 

I just finished my Grade 6 exams and think I will pass them. I plan to study in a secondary school and become an engineer when I grow up. If I had one wish, I would wish to own a motorbike and use it to go to school.”

As told to Lisa Kim and Mam Leav

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