December17, 2010 — A dream of going back to school has come true for 23-year-old VanSarem. Now she sits in the front row of her grade 8 class at a new secondaryschool in Sre Ang Krong commune by the Se San River in Ratanakiri province,excited and delighted to be back learning after a five-year absence since shefinished primary school in 2004.
“Mydream has come true now,” she says with a beautiful smile. “I am so happy thatI have a chance to come back to school even though I am older. And my parentssupport my return to school.”
Sarem is from one of the poorest families in Sre Ang Krongvillage. When she finished studying at the local primary school, her family didnot have the money to send her to the nearest secondary school, which was morethan 20 km away. She dropped out of school for five years.
When Sarem saw a new school beginning to be built near her home,she began to hope that one day she would have a chance to be a pupil there whenit opened. Whenever she walked by the building site, she willed the school tobe finished sooner. Early last year she approached the new school’s principaland asked if she could register to be one of its first students.
The new secondary school in Sre Ang Krong is a product of twonationwide school building programs supported by the World Bank that areplaying a crucial role in enabling young people, especially women, who havedropped out of school to resume their education.
The Education Sector Support Project (ESSP), which the World Banksupports, has built 247 lower secondary schools, and the Education SectorSupport Scale-Up Action Program (ESSSUAP), supported by multiple donors andadministered by the World Bank, plans to construct 650 school buildings throughoutCambodia.
The large number of schools being built around the country underthe ESSP and ESSSUAP programs opens up the real possibility for young womenlike Sarem to go back to school and finish their education.
Of 205,151 scholarship students at secondary school, 67 percentare female. These are supported by the ESSP. Almost 50 percent out of 3,459scholarship students at primary school are female and these are supported byESSSUAP.
School construction has also helped women teachers to stay intheir home areas as there is more local work than before. This means that manymore female teachers can stay in the profession and thus have a greateropportunity to enhance their careers as well as be role models for girls.
“If girls are well educated, they will have the basic knowledge tosupport their families through a better understanding of health care andconfidence in themselves which in turn can encourage siblings and their ownchildren to attend school,” said H.E. Ou Eng, ESSP Project Manager. “This willhave a cumulative effect over time and help to reduce poverty caused by poorunderstanding of basic health care, literacy and numeracy.
“One of the most important benefits is the fact that it gives astrong message to the community that the education of girls is a nationalpriority,” he said. “This not only improves the educational opportunities forgirls but also raises their status in the community.”