Many adolescents in Cambodia do not have the privilege of being able to attend school through graduation. Especially when growing up in rural Cambodia, they often feel pressure to not pursue higher education but rather join the workforce to follow a culture that they are taught by the older Cambodian generation: to prioritize work over education in order to afford necessities like food, water, and shelter. At this crucial age, teenagers often don’t have a social circle that teaches them to plan long-term and sparks ambitions for their futures, but often feel the urge to find short-term solutions for present problems instead. Hence, Cambodia still has an overwhelmingly high school dropout rate: UNICEF estimated in 2018 that nearly 55% of students will have dropped out of school by the time they turn 17.(1)
This was the case with Puy, a now 25-year-old father of two. Puy is an orphan and dropped out of 8th grade when he was 15 years old. Back then, he was offered the opportunity to start work as a roofer and construction worker with a distant relative. At the time, this was a good solution for the young boy. Eventually, Puy got married to his beautiful wife Vechuk and the couple welcomed two sons.
However, throughout the years, the family’s situation has become increasingly challenging. For one, Puy has had difficulty finding work. Cambodia’s labor market evolves rapidly and demands more and more qualifications. Without a basic Secondary School certificate, let alone a higher education diploma or foreign language skills, Puy’s chances of landing a reliable position with a stable income decreases year by year. On top of that, Puy’s second child suffers from a health condition that requires medical attention almost every month. In a country that doesn’t have a health care system set in place, Puy and Vechuk are continuously confronted with expensive hospital bills, trying to make ends meet every month.
In order to find a sustainable long-term solution for this problem, Thomlang – Cambodian Youth Support has been in talks with Puy about re-enrolling in school since 2021. This year, the 25-year-old was finally able to enroll in the Kecho Sen National Insitute in Kandal, a trade school that offers free courses to students who did not complete Secondary School. Puy is currently enrolled in an Air Conditioning course and a course that will reward him with the official Secondary School certificate, which opens doors for further courses.
Read his story in his own words below!
My name is Puy and I am 25 years old. I have a wife and two children. We live in Kampong Cham in Cambodia.
As a child, I dropped out of Secondary School because I wanted to start working as a construction worker. Unfortunately, over the years, it has become more difficult to find a job because I do not have a degree of any kind. Because of my unstable work situation, I do not have enough income to support my family. We need a lot of money each month because one of my children has asthma and has to go to the hospital regularly. My wife started working at a factory, but the income is still not enough for us.
Julian has talked to me for a long time and introduced me to the idea of going back to school. He encouraged me to study a skill at a trade school in Phnom Penh.
The subject that I chose is Air Conditioning. So far, I’m really happy with this skill. I am hopeful that this course will not only improve my knowledge but also help me find a good job in the future. At this school, I will also get my Secondary School certificate, which would also allow me to study more in the future. Right now, I am thinking about that too. I know that it will be easier for me to find good work the more education I will get.
In the end, I have nothing but words of thanks to all of you for providing for me and my family. This organization helps me with my monthly expenses for my family, covers all hospital bills for my son, and provides me with school supplies. You also donated a moto to my wife so that she can drive to her workplace and become more independent whenever I’m at school and not at home.
My family and I wish every donor happiness, good health, and success in all your endeavors.
When it comes to supporting families in need through education, it is always extremely important to make every decision on their terms and to consider every factor that plays into their everyday life. Therefore, we have been supporting Vechuk, Puy, and their children for the past two years through the coverage of their monthly expenses and needs. Now that Puy’s children are older and some family matters are taken care of, he can finally take the time to move to Phnom Penh and commute to school in Kandal.
We are very proud of Puy for returning to the classroom after an entire decade. These certificates will not only spark his passion for learning again but also enable him to apply for higher-paying job positions, which will have a positive impact on not only his but also his children’s lives.
Support families in need through education and financial assistance by donating to CYS today!
(1) Source: https://www.unicef.org/cambodia/education