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3 August 2023 - Story


Yen Liza, a sixth-grade student, is popular among her peers for her ability to narrate stories and her talent for imitating the characters' voices in her tales. 

Liza is a student council member at Phat Sanday primary school on Tonle Sap Lake, a place known for its natural beauty and abundant fish.  

"I like reading because it helps improve my Khmer literacy. I enjoy telling stories and can imitate different characters' voices from fairy tale stories. Young students love listening to me when I tell those stories," Liza said with a bright smile. 

Living life as a fairy tale princess with beautiful hair, dresses, and enough meals has always been a dream that Liza yearned for.  

The 13-year-old Liza lives in a small floating house with her parents and three young siblings in Koah Ta Pov Village, Phat Sanday Commune, Kampong Svay District, Kampong Thom province. The family makes their living from small-scale fishing and hardly survives because of the irregular income. 

Liza goes on a small boat tightly loaded with two dozen children and a boat driver daily. The journey takes about 20 minutes to their school, and it is risky for all children without life jackets though they can swim. A round trip costs 1,000 riels (0.25USD) per child - half of Liza's daily pocket allowance, but she considered it worth spending to go to school and learn. 

"Our school did not have power or a fan. The ceiling was torn and broken. The roof was also damaged and leaked. The school did not look nice. It wasn't painted properly," Liza described her school back before the "Generating Resilient Environments and Promoting Socio-economic Development of the East Tonle Sap Lake (GREEN)" project funded by the European Union was introduced to her school in early 2021. 

"When there were dark clouds and high winds, the dust on the ceiling always fell, which disrupted our regular learning schedule," said Mr. Toem Kim Sort, Liza's teacher. "Sometimes, we had to close the school and ask the children to leave early to avoid bad incidents while traveling home. It was difficult for the children to keep up with their studies when the weather was bad, but we always did our best to ensure their safety and well-being."

Children of this fishing community often face difficulty keeping up with their studies, resulting in poor learning outcomes and a higher dropout rate. 

Under the GREEN project, Save the Children in Cambodia has worked closely with the Provincial Department of Education, Youth, and Sport to support Phat Sanday primary school, one of the project's targeted schools. Teachers have been able to enhance their skills and knowledge while the school was being repaired and renovated with safe, child-friendly classroom facilities.

"Our school now looks beautiful and clean. We are happy to learn in our classroom," said Liza, noting that the school library is currently loaded with various study materials and books so that she and other students could hang out and spend time reading. 

"I love being in the world of fairy tales when I read a story. I can learn new words and create magical imagination of the environment that I want to be," Liza added. "I enjoy telling stories. I read to other classmates using voices of different characters.

Liza's storytelling skills improved as time passed, allowing her to summarize and retell stories in a simple and understandable manner. Her classmates and other young students are impressed by this and acknowledge that books have greatly influenced her. 

Liza's talent paid off! She's now the top student in her class, and it's no surprise, given her ability to retell stories well.


Interviewed and written by: Yous Ratha, Communications Officer
Edited by: Taing Vida, Communications and Campaign Manager