This International Women’s Day, we shine the spotlight on CCF teacher Prak Siborin. A hardworking Khmer teacher who goes above and beyond to inspire and motivate the girls in her class Working multiple jobs and juggling a family of her own, Siborin rarely has time to spare to eat lunch, but she always has time for her students. At the age of 37, Siborin cares for her 3-year-old daughter and a teenage son, along with working as a teacher and a tutor. Fitting in tutoring around her full-time job at CCF's Sambok Chab school, Siborin is kept on her toes. Her work day starts at 6am and she doesn't return home until the late evening. Despite her hectic schedule, Siborin’s quality of teaching and care for her students is never compromised. “I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to help Cambodian children. When I was younger, teachers put a lot of pressure on students. I committed to becoming a teacher that would help students. I don’t want students to have to think about whether they are rich or poor,” explained Siborin. Being a teacher at CCF comes with extra challenges and responsibility. CCF’s students come from impoverished backgrounds, often with a difficult family life. Emotional and behavioural problems are common. But Siborin goes out of her way to ensure that her students feel safe. “When I meet students in my class, they can find it difficult to study and behave. I always work closely with them to help explain and give advice. I talk to the CCF team to find solutions for my students,” said Siborin. There is an additional barrier to education in place for the female students in Cambodia. ‘Chbab Srey’- otherwise known as ‘Rules for Girls’- is a code of conduct for women, told in a poem, that traditionally dictates the behaviours and opportunities of women in Cambodia:
“You must serve and respect your husband at all times and above all else.
You can’t touch your husband’s head without first bowing in respect.
School is more useful for boys than girls.” -Chbab Srey.
‘Chbab Srey’ was officially taught in schools across Cambodia until 2007. Whilst now it does not hold as much importance, it is still passed down through generations.
These generational beliefs often result in a high drop out rate of girls from school. CCF is fighting this, and teachers like Siborin are making a difference. Siborin is a role model to her students. She understands the challenges that girls face in education and inspires them to stay in school.
“I motivate the girls in my classes. I have experienced the difficulties of being a girl in education when I was younger. I had a difficult family situation, but I worked hard to finish high school and get a job as a teacher,” said Siborin.
“When I was a student, there were times when my family didn’t want to let me continue studying, but I was determined to study because I wanted to change my life, and my family’s life.”
Siborin emphasises the value of education for girls to achieve independence.
“I always tell the girls in my class that they should try to study, because after they finish high school they will be able to get a job and this will give them independence,” explained Siborin.
“The big challenge for female students in my class is family pressure. Sometimes, their families don’t want them to study in the evening. They miss out on opportunities to learn.”
At the CCF school where Siborin teaches, Sambok Chab, girls make up 70 out of 110 students. The young girls she teaches cleary admire Siborin and trust her.
13-year-old student, Srey Nich, said: “Teacher Siborin is always there to help. If a student is sick, she takes them to get medicine and makes them feel better. She encourages us to come to school and we know we can talk to her.”
“I focus on building relationships, so that my students feel comfortable with me. I speak to my students who have problems. I use my own experience to work with them to find a solution,” said Siborin.
Teacher Siborin is among the many women at CCF who are having a positive impact on the lives of young girls. This International Women’s Day we want to celebrate Siborin, and all of the women behind the scenes, that are breaking down the barriers of social exclusion for women in Cambodia, and paving the way for a brighter future.