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30 April 2023 - Story

Community Preschool Teacher Strives To Help Young Children With Early Learning

Sourn Socheat, a 28-year-old contracted community preschool teacher, says her greatest ambition is to assist young children in her village in obtaining early learning and higher education. She pays little attention to criticism of the low income she has received.

Ms. Socheat recalled her difficult time when she graduated from high school in 2015 and moved to Phnom Penh to work at a garment factory. She was paid very little and hardly survived with many daily expenses.

She returned to her hometown and worked as a volunteer teacher in 2017 at Ses Slab community preschool, a former floating Ses Slab primary school with two classrooms in Chhnuk Trou Commune, Boribo District, Kampong Chhnang province. She received US$ 50 monthly at that time.

Almost no one was interested in this volunteer work because it was so low-paid. My neighbours devalued the profession because they believed it would not contribute much [to child development], and there were just a few children enrolled in preschool back then,” Ms. Socheat said, adding that there were only two volunteer teachers in her village.

“I could control my feelings about what my neighbours said, and I told myself that I needed to prove to them the outcomes and benefits children would gain through early learning. Most parents in my village had limited understanding about early learning,” She added.

Ms. Socheat said her hard work has gradually paid off as more and more parents enrol their young children in her classes, and her salary has increased from US$ 50 to US$ 75 the following year.

In early 2021, Ms. Socheat and teachers at Preah Norodom Sihamoni primary, formerly known as Ses Slab primary school, co-funded by the European Union and the Norton Rose Fulbright under the “Generating Resilient Environments and Promoting Socio-economic Development of the East Tonle Sap Lake (GREEN)” project, were invited to attend training about teaching methodologies and development of lesson plans.

Besides, Ms. Socheat was also trained in knowledge and skills to facilitate parenting group meetings the project team initiated. She was assigned to introduce a few parenting members to support their children learning at home using learning resources made of recycled materials around their house, including carton papers, plastics, and glass jars to engage with their children.

As a result of her hard work and commitment, at the end of 2021, Ms. Socheat was promoted to be a contracted community preschool teacher, with a monthly payment of US$ 167.

Over the years, I have observed and seen those young children are delighted when they interact with those creative learning materials in the classroom,” Ms. Socheat said, “Most parents are now actively involved in teaching their children at home. They have the poster of Khmer alphabets and numbers hung on the walls of their houses so they can teach their children anytime.”

Ms. Path Meng Chhou, a parenting group member who attended Ms. Socheat’s session, said she has been practising what she had learned. She is confident that her children will grow up decent.

Ms. Meng Chhou said, “I have learned the importance of early learning for my young children. Every time I arrive home, I teach my children about the things around the kitchen, including spoons and cups, etc. I also teach them how to respect the elderly.”

With a bright smile, Ms. Socheat said most of her students were quick learners when they entered grade 1, “Children could catch up with the fundamental lessons, such as alphabets, numbers, and colours because they were aware of them in preschool classes.”

Now that Ms. Socheat’s dreams for young children in her village to access early learning are becoming true, she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in public administration at the weekend, hoping to equip herself with more knowledge for future growth.