Girls’ Education Dream Disappears With Burning Homes
March 5, 2015, 9:00 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Girls’ Education Dream Disappears With Burning Homes

 Four years ago, Chhen Da, 20, and Sim Sopheap, 18, both attending grade 7 at a seaside school in Preah Sihanouk Province, would wake up early in the morning and dress up in school uniform of white shirts and blue skirts ready to go to school.

Away from the shattered life at home, their school offered a safe refuge where they were enjoying their studies and had dozens of friends to play with. However, their dream of becoming teachers was only short lived.

The land where their families and other poor people were living on for more than a decade had been claimed by a rich businessman backed by security forces who were armed with a court order to clear community.

“I was at school when the military and police burned down my house,” said Sopheap as she gathered with other people to tell their stories. “They poured gasoline on our houses and burned them.”

“Our belongings were all destroyed,” added Chhen Da. “We cried and were very scared.”

No sooner had their houses been destroyed and their community evicted, Chhen Da and Sopheap said they decided to drop out of school.

Sopheap said most of the students from her community who were studying at grade 6 and7 had also dropped out at the same time.

The two girls said they had not only lost their homes, but they had also lost their friends and their dream to become teachers.

They said their friends did not want to associate themselves with homeless people like her families which they used to visit frequently when they were living in their old houses.

Chhen Da and Sopheap said all their friends who are children of rich families from other parts of Sihanoukville have almost finished high school. “Now, I regret that I had very little education,” Sopheap lamented.

Prang Nam, 52, said many people from her generation had lost their opportunity to get education because of poverty and the civil war. “But, we want our children to have education.”

However, she said she and other families were worried that their children had now lost the same opportunity to go to school after their houses had evicted from their land. She said life had also become difficult and that the people could hardly live from hand to mouth.

“We used to grow rice and other crops, but they have taken our land,” she said.

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