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FORGING FUTURES WITH EDUCATION

StarKids is helping to develop the leaders of tomorrow through childhood literacy in Cambodia. By Tracy Keogh.

“When I grow up, I want to become a teacher,” says 10-year-old Smichta. “I love reading and I think a good teacher must have read a lot of books. I want to become one and teach kids. That is my dream.” Smichta attends a local primary school in Takeo province, located in south-west Cambodia near the border with Vietnam. In an area where domestic, sexual and labour exploitation as well as malnourishment are widespread among children, education is the only route through which a brighter future can be possible. However, poverty keeps children from the classroom and a lack of quality education contributes to high rates of repetition and dropout, notably, at the primary school level. It doesn’t help that more than half of all Cambodian children experience some form of violence before they reach the age of 18. Thanks to the support of StarKids, World Vision is actively working to improve the quality of education in Cambodia by equipping primary school libraries with reading materials and training literacy coaches and tutors. At Smichta’s school, children can be found immersed in books at the school library, using desks, shelves, stools and tablets supplied by World Vision. A learning club and student council has also been set up to provide inspirational, safe spaces where older children can mentor their peers and younger students learn the Khmer alphabet through games, recitation and story books. Ten-year-old Puthika loves reading books and helping other students with Khmer. “That is why I am part of the student council; to help my fellow students,” says Puthika. “When I grow up, I want to become a doctor and help my community and village.” By fuelling this sort of ambition, these children are being given an opportunity to reimagine their future