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Sorn Panha Reach is a six-year-old boy studying in first grade at Kokor primary school. He and his family live in Chamkar Samsib Village close to the Mekong River in eastern Cambodia. Enthusiastically, little Panha told us that he enjoys reading picture books.
“When I see the book, I really want to read it,” said Panha. “And I like reading vegetable books because I like eating [vegetables] and colorful pictures.”
Panha is the youngest son of San Sokna, a leader of the community mother’s group at the village level in Kampong Siem district, Kampong Cham Province – located about 13 kilometers outside the provincial capital. Members of the Kokor Commune Committee for Women and Children established the mother’s group with technical support from Save the Children and financial support from the Prudence Foundation. The objective of the group is to train mothers and provide a safe space for them to share their experiences related to educating and caring for small children at home.
“I attended a series of trainings on how to educate young children,” said Ms. Sokna, Panha’s mother. “I have applied [the lessons] with Panha and shared what I have done in the mother’s group meetings.”
Panha has learned many things from his mother, including good behaviors and social skills. He has learned to sing songs, read picture books, and learn the foundation of Khmer letters and numbers.
“My mum teaches me consonants, vowels, games and washing our body [hygiene],” said Panha. “I am happy to learn those things as I know them and can spend more time with my mum as well.”
Panha’s mother now consistently spends time to learn and play with her son, around one to two hours after lunch and dinner every day. Day by day, this has helped him learn very quickly, and his parents and others can see the benefits of this kind of education. Panha always goes with his mum to the monthly meetings, and his progress has served as a good example for other parents to observe, follow and put into practice.
“The mothers ask me to share my experience because Panha is learning to be brave, humble, smart and gentle,” explained Ms. Sokna.
Panha has not only excelled at home and in the community meetings, he is also setting a good example at school. He likes studying and has been achieving high scores every month. He encourages his classmates to read books with him during break and recite the consonants and alphabet. When his teacher asks for volunteers to read aloud in class, Panha is always the first to raise his hand.
“I don’t have any difficulties to read because I learn from my mum,” explained Panha. “My mum reads book to me every day and I learn the difficult word from her.”
Panha’s mother also teaches him to make toys by using recycled objects from around their home such as leaves, plastic bottles, paper boxes and tin cans. He loves to share his knowledge of crafts and games with his friends.
“My friends and I make a lot of toys. This is a book made from paper boxes; this is Khmer alphabet made from bottle caps and this is a puzzle made from leaves,” explained Panha as he showed some of his creations. “We love those toys.”
Moreover, Panha always leads his friends when there is a group discussion. Praised as an exceptional student and a good example for his classmates, he become a little leader in class.
Panha’s development is a positive example, showing the community that parents’ consistent and active participation in their children’s education can show great results. Panha is happy to help others and seems to enjoy being a leader amongst his peers. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, Panha replied, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up, so I can treat my neighbors.”