A 15 year old's decision

Once a month our Program Officer, Sreymom, observes our Education Officers conducting family and school visits, providing feedback and using her observations to inform and improve the service we provide.

Here you see Chanda engaging family members in conversation, while Bona talks specifically to the girl. In this case, Reaksa* is 15 and discontinued her education 3 months ago, she’s therefore receiving additional interventions from our team of social workers.Reaksa* discontinued her education while in grade 8, but there is little expectation for children to go to school here. It’s great if they want to and some parents are incredibly supportive, some indifferent, and others prefer their children to work to help support the family. In Cambodia it is law that schools must be provided and available up to grade 9 but there’s no professional or legal body to ensure children’s attendance. It’s therefore largely down to us to encourage and motivate her to want to go to school and for her to choose to prioritise it above the demands of family challenges.

You can see at the left of the bottom photo a group of men sitting on a mat under a tree playing a game. They’ve been drinking heavily and you can smell the alcohol on them from quite a distance. One of the men come and sit very close while Bona talks with Reaksa*.In this case Reaksa* has been out of school for 3 months and started working one week ago. Bona and Chanda also engage the Aunt in conversation who is quite firm that her niece absolutely should return to school, and Reaksa* tears up upon hearing this. To the side of us is Reaksa’s* cousin, who has just turned 17 and birthed her baby daughter 10 weeks ago. She discontinued school one year ago, got married and is now struggling because her husband earns only enough to pay his loan, not to provide for his family. She and Aunt express their wish to Reaksa* that she return to school.I ask Bona if he felt safe with the men nearby drinking, in particular with the man that came to sit down next to them. Our team know to prioritise their safety, to not visit a situation where they believe their safety is at risk, to take additional team members with them when necessary, or to arrange an alternative location to meet with the girl and her family. “No, in this case it is fine. They are always drinking but they don’t cause a problem to us. They respect Free To Shine so he just comes to listen,” Bona explains.

  • We will continue to visit Reaksa* providing guidance, support, encouragement and information about her options.
  • And until she returns to school, and if she doesn’t, we’ll assess her workplace to ensure it is safe.

*Name has been changed to protect her identityWritten by Managing Director, Nicky Mih