Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Supporting children to stay in school

8-year-old Pin Kimsean happily receives her school uniform in
Kear Commune, Battambang Province
© UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Seneh Siv
Eight-year-old Kimsean (whose nick name is Pong) lives with her grandparents, Mr. Soung Sai, 58, and Ms. Voeun Soeun, 62, and her four-year-old younger brother, Mithona. The family live in a small wooden house with a zinc roof in Run village, Kear commune, Moung Ruessei district, located about 60 kilometers from the Battambang provincial town. Kimsean is in grade 2 at Damnak Run Primary School which is located about 2.5 kilometers from her home. Usually, Kimsean walks to school with her friends, who she plays with both at school and at home. When Kimsean was three months old she was diagnosed with having valvular heart disease.

“I feel tired and breathless when I run or walk far or play a lot with my friends,” said Kimsean. At the local hospital a doctor advised her grandparents that Kimsean would require surgery to her heart, and informed them of the risks involved, during and after the operation. However, Kimseam’s grandparents in fear of losing their granddaughter decided to forego the surgery and sought alternative means. The family decided to seek treatment for Kimsean’s condition and sold all of their land including a rice field and cattle to fund her treatment. Kimsean was taken to Jayavarman VII Hospital in Siem Reap province on a regular basis to receive treatment and medication. After consistently taking her medication, Kimsean’s health improved significantly. Although to pay for Kimsean to receive further treatment, Kimsean’s parents migrated to Thailand to work as construction workers leaving Kimsean and her little brother in the care of their grandparents. “So far, my parents have not sent any money for me and my brother. They have not yet come to visit us not even once since they left us last year. But, I know that they will visit us when the Khmer New Year comes”, says Kimsean in anticipation.
Kimsean’s grandparents, who earn only US$15 per month collectively, considered withdrawing Kimsean from school when they were unable to buy Kimsean a school uniform, but fortunately with support from their local commune council it was a decision they were not forced to make.

Pin Kimsean (right) and her friend are smiling in their
supported school uniforms
© UNICEF Cambodia/2013/Seneh Siv
As Kimsean’s grandparents were struggling financially to support Kimsean in school, they were selected as one of the most vulnerable families by the local commune council. With support from UNICEF and funding from the Japan Committee for UNICEF communes are able to provide social services to children and their families in most need, especially those who have difficulties in accessing basic social services. In order to select the most vulnerable households the Commune Women and Children Committee and village authorities organize regular meetings and visits to families. 
Commune women and children committees in 31 communes in Cambodia have been working hard in their communities to provide assistance to more than three thousand poor and vulnerable children by providing school uniforms, school materials, food items and covering transportation costs to health centres, to enable them to go to school and/or to continue schooling. With this financial assistance more than a hundred poor families were supported with food supplies, access to medication, transportation costs to health centres, minor repairs to their homes, and given support in times of emergencies.
With commune support, Kimsean was able to stay in school after receiving a school uniform costing US$5. Kimsean who was very happy to receive the school uniform said enthusiastically, “I like this uniform so much. I will study hard and try to be the first one in the class as I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”

By Seneh Siv

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