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20 September 2022 - Story


A 56-year-old woman, Kheav Sopheap has overcome bias in gender roles and proved her ability with the given title of the “Top Primary School Principal” in Kampong Chhnang province.
Ms. Sopheap’s husband, Meas Bunthorn, 63-year-old, retired. Her two children – a son and a daughter are now serving as police officers. They are now living in Sala Lekh Pram village, Ou Ruessei commune, Kampong Chhnang’s Tralach district.
Ms. Sopheap started working as a teacher at Neak Ta Hang primary school in 1983 and in 1987, she moved to teach at Sala Lekh Pram primary school which was one of the target schools supported by Save the Children’s Education with Quality and Inclusive Learning (EQUAL) project in 2018.
Because of her rich experience and continuous involvement at Sala Lekh Pram primary school, Mr. Thou Vannthol, the school principal, in June 2020, appointed Ms. Sopheap as the acting principal when he retired.
“At the beginning, some teachers were discontented and disapproved of me because they thought I was immature and I would not be able to perform the role as a male principal. A few teachers at that time got on her nerves and looked down on me. I almost gave up.” said Ms. Sopheap, however, she managed to carry out the role with support from her family and her peers.
Since then, Ms. Sopheap said she has been working very hard, dealing with problems, and overcoming her fears in order to prove to all teachers that she is able to lead the school.
In July 2021, with funding support from Save the Children Korea, Save the Children has worked in collaboration with the Provincial and District of Education, Youth, and Sport to implement the Safe Back to School – Pathways in Educational Equity and Resilience (PEER) project in Kampong Chhnang province. Sala Lekh Pram primary school was among the 32 target schools of this project.
The support provided opportunities for Ms. Sopheap and other teachers to attend training on literacy and numeracy, safe use of Information Communication Technology (ICT), reporting system, administration and planning, disaster response, and management of water supply, as well as support, to better manage the School Management Committee (SMC), Student Councils, and how to support students who failed behind the grade and so son.
Because of her outstanding performance and the improved school environment and teaching quality, Ms. Sopheap’s commitment and effort were recognized and she was officially appointed as the school principal in November 2021.
A librarian and teacher, Mr. Chum Ratey, admitted that he was wrong about Ms. Sopheap earlier, “I did not think she made it but now I witness a lot of changes and improvement at school including active engagement from the community, local authorities, and parents into students’ learning. We are convinced that she is really good.”
En Cheavkren, Chairman of the School Management Committee and Tralach Commune Council member, praised Ms. Sopheap for her friendliness and patience in working with relevant people.
“She has been working closely with the local authorities to run the campaign of safe back to school and convince parents to send their children to school after the lockdowns,” he said.
In the academic year 2021-2022, Ms. Sopheap was selected as the Top Primary School Principal, the title given by the provincial department of Education, Youth, and Sport.
The Department Director, Mr. Sem Prem noted that Ms. Sopheap has what it takes to be the best school principal, adding that she has provided support for a mathematics teacher to become the top teacher at the national level.
“I am really proud of her. She fits with the title because she is a model for other teachers and she has a long version for the education sector,” he said.