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6 September 2021 - Story

Student leader thrives with new responsibilities

Ham Srey Khouch, a 12-year-old studying in grade 6 at Ang Serey primary school, reflects on how satisfied she was when she became the head of the Children's Council. “I never feel bored with my duties – it is a great opportunity to build up my confidence and take on more responsibility as a leader at the school,” explained Srey Khouch. “I am excited to contribute to my school.”

Srey Khouch is the eldest of three siblings and lives with her family in Snang Mom village in Thma Edth commune in Kampong Chhnang province. She lives in a small traditional wooden house with a zinc roof. Her father and stepmother work as farmers near their house. Srey Khouch told us how her father wakes up at 5 in the morning to claim a palm tree and get palm water to make palm sugar. Some days, her parents make 8 to 10 kg of palm sugar, which earns them only USD 5 per day.

Burning firewood to cook the palm juice under the house creates a lot of smoke. Nonetheless, Srey Khouch smiles as she tells us “I help my parent stir palm sugar every evening after class. Besides this, I often feed the chickens and cows, and water the crops, as well as looking after my little brother.” 

Srey Khouch is a busy girl, yet she has never thought about dropping the school. Even though she walks to school every day, she strives to attend all her classes and learn all her lessons.

In 2018, with support from Save the Children Korea, Save the Children and its partners worked closely with the Provincial Office of Education to implement the Education with Quality and Inclusive Learning (EQUAL) project in Thma Edth commune. One key activity of the project was to establish Children’s Councils in each school with the aim of promoting more effective learning, especially by encouraging discipline and improving school environments.

According to Mr. Hul Sophean, Srey Khouch’s teacher, “Srey Khouch is a role model in class because she regularly attends and helps other students who have difficulty reading.”

Because of her efforts, she was selected to be the head of the Children’s Council voted by the majority of students and teachers. She was happy when she received the highest vote: “I was surprised that they trusted me,” Srey Khouch told us. “I am committed to doing my best in this role. I especially want to improve the atmosphere for learning.”

Every morning, Srey Khouch monitors the other members of the Children’s Council assigned to check that the toilets, vegetable gardens, and food vendors are clean before class starts.

Because she did such a great job with her responsibilities, the school principal selected her to attend a Cambodian Sign Language training workshop in early January. “I felt nervous when I started talking in front of many people in the workshop – however, I kept telling myself that I could do it until the training was over,” explained Srey Khouch, adding that she was thrilled when the Deputy Director of the Department of Education praised her for her performance and her bravery.

Through the Children’s Council, Srey Khouch is also a great facilitator of school events for other students to learn from her. Srey Khouch smiled and told us that everything is possible when we believe in ourselves and keep moving toward our goals. When we asked what she wanted to be in the future, she proudly said, “I want to be a teacher when I grow up because I want to share knowledge with the next generation.”