6 CCF students have been awarded a six-year scholarship at the private International School of Phnom Penh after beating off competition from more than 240 kids

As her name was read out, Kanith rose from her chair and performed Sampeah, the traditional Cambodian way of saying a formal thank you. Clasping her palms together like a lotus flower, she bowed her head as a huge smile spread across her face.

Those few seconds were a life-changing moment for the 11-year-old.

Kanith is one of six CCF students chosen to receive a full scholarship at the private International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP) after battling through a gruelling selection process over several months.

They will attend ISPP for six years from Grade 6 to Grade 12, officially starting for the new academic year in August.

Kanith and the other five scholars were among 247 CCF students who started out in the beginning February. They were whittled down to the final 19 after assessments in their English level ability followed by a series of workshops and group activities testing their abilities in areas such as teamwork and social interactions.

From the finalists, the six scholars – five girls and one boy – were announced in a nail-biting reveal which had nerves jangling.

“I feel so happy,” said a relieved Kanith after her name was called.

“I really want to study and learn at ISPP. In the future I want to be a doctor.”

All six will start at ISPP for the new academic term next month (August). To prepare them, they are having extra classes at ISPP during the summer break in subjects including English and Maths. While at ISPP they will remain in the CCF program and continue to have classes at CCF, with their families receiving whatever support is needed.

ISPP has given out scholarships before, but it’s the first time for students from such impoverished backgrounds as the CCF pupils, who all live in or around the Steung Meanchey area of Phnom Penh, among the poorest communities in Cambodia.

Kanith’s parents sell mobile phones from their home to earn a living.

“We are really grateful,” said her father, Chetra. “We cannot express our feelings for this opportunity.”

“We are very proud to have these six children come to our school,” said Barry Sutherland, the Director of ISPP.
“We spent a lot of time trying to determine who would be the most successful to come and stay at ISPP. We know that they are going to work hard and are going to be motivated.
“We welcome them to the community of ISPP.”

Joining Kanith at ISPP will be Davi, 10, who gained the highest scores in one test and has a very proud mother.
Kean, 10, the lone boy among the scholars, can certainly hold his own among the girls and impressed with his confidence. He’s the youngest of two brothers and their mum works in a factory while their dad is a trash scavenger.

Srey Mom, aged 11, is the fourth scholar, whose lively personality shone through during the selection stages. Her family live in a house built by CCF in a World Housing Community and her mum is very committed to supporting her daughter as she embarks on the challenge of starting a new school.
As is Kaneka’s mum, who is thrilled that her daughter, 11, has been given one of the places and has promised to help.
Last but not least is Seyha, 10, who is currently living with her grandmother after her father died and mother remarried. Hugely talented – she has ranked top at public school – she has dreams of becoming an English teacher.

“I have know these kids since there we tiny and it’s an absolute joy to see them get an opportunity as huge as this,” said Scott Neeson, CCF Founder and Executive Director.
“I would like to thank their parents. I know how difficult it is to get children to school every day for years. Thank you for your support.”

He said the opportunity to study at ISPP would not only change the children’s lives but their families too.

“I would love to see in 15 years from now that the six will have jobs working at universities as academics, as lawyers and engineers, or studying to be doctors. That would be something.”

Kate Ginn/CCF

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