CCF received round one of the Australian Aid: Friendship Grant, enabling more than 1,000 CCF students to integrate into the Cambodian public school system in 2018. Now, students like 15-year-old Sreyny are not only integrating but flourishing

In her white and blue public school uniform, Sreyny looks like any other Cambodian teenager as she joins the sea of students going to her local public school. But her inspiring story sets her apart from her peers.
Sreyny came to Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) in 2012. Her parents, both shoemakers, struggled to support the family on their small earnings. Living with her three younger siblings and two grandparents, in a community around the former dumpsite of Steung Meanchey, life was difficult.

At a young age, Sreyny was denied the opportunity to study. The barriers to education were a result of crippling poverty and her parents were faced with the unthinkable choice of putting food on the table or sending their children to school.

To compensate for missing education, Sreyny was enrolled into CCF’s ‘operation rescue’ at the Rice Academy (a CCF school). The program is designed to give kids the chance to catch up on school. Sreyny proved to be a fast learner and a star student. But CCF’s biggest challenge is not getting kids to school, but keeping them there.

Thanks to the Australian Aid: Friendship Grant, CCF has been able to focus on integrating students into the Cambodian public school system. Sreyny, along with more than 1,000 other CCF students went through public school integration in 2018 alone.

When CCF began, in 2004, the annual public school absentee rate was as high as 55% but today it is only 3.77%.

“In the mornings I go to Toul Ampil school [a CCF satellite school] and then I go to public school after lunch,” explained Sreyny.

“It’s really good and there are many rules we have to follow. Students have to wear white shoes and have to wear an ID card and the girls need to tie their hair back and the boys have short hair.”

Sreyny is the first in her family to reach secondary school. While her dad attended school until grade 6, her mother and grandparents didn’t have the opportunity. Sreyny represents a new generation, armed with an education and hope for a brighter future.

“In the future, I want to be a doctor because I want to help my community and my family. I don’t want to be rich, but I want my family to have enough money,” she said.
Public school integration matters. It provides CCF’s students with a pathway to secondary education and gives kids who were once pushed to the outskirts of society, a way to assimilate.

Sreyny is just one example of the success of public school integration. She has even been selected to attend the Global Youth Leadership Summit (GYLS): a 10 day trip to San Diego at the end of July to build leadership skills, supported by the Tony Robbins Foundation.

At 15 years old, she is the youngest student to win one of 10 sought-after places and the only one who attends public school (as opposed to CCF’s own secondary school, the Neeson Cripps Academy).

Students receive transportation, study materials, school uniforms and everything they need to prepare them for public school. It’s important that CCF’s students don’t stand out from the crowd because of what they don’t have, but because of their talents and dedication to learning.

It is with great thanks to the Australian Aid: Friendship Grant that Sreyny and many more like her have their opportunity to shine. Find out more about the grant here.

Alice Brown/CCF

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