Boeun Koysear is amazed when he thinks about how well he is doing in school. “After having given up school, I never thought I could go back again. I did not even try, even though my parents had encouraged me to return,” says the 16-year-old boy.
‘I decided to drop out of school’
In Cambodia, where Koysear lives, it is common for young children to leave school and seek manual labor jobs to supplement their family’s income. Koysear’s decision to forgo his education came following a prolonged illness that set him back academically.
“When I returned to school after my recovery, I could not catch up with the school lessons. I failed the exams. Finally, I decided to drop out of school,” he recalls. Koysear went to work at the brick factory with his mother, thinking that his education was over.
At the factory, Koysear worked eight-hour days, earning a meager $1.25 U.S. each day. “Working at the kiln, I carried bricks, pulled brick carts, and did other work I was asked to do,” he says.
A new opportunityThough Koysear’s mother encouraged him to return to school, he knew that his family could use the money he was earning. His father bought and sold recycled scraps, and his mother sold vegetables and occasionally worked in the factory. But their small combined incomes were not always enough to buy food for Koysear and his siblings. He knew his family was struggling and felt that his place was in the factory, not school.
But this young boy’s future changed when staff members from World Vision saw him working in the factory. In Cambodia, World Vision has initiated the Combating the Worst Forms of Child Labor project, which aims to increase the care and protection of working children like Koysear.
World Vision staff talked with Koysear’s mother and invited him to come to the nearby center, where he could play and learn with other children. “I was in the center for the mornings. I studied and played games with the other children. I worked in the afternoons at the brick factory,” he recalls.
Education and encouragementAt the center, Koysear learned social skills and began catching up on his studies. He came to respect the staff at the center, who told him that he had a bright future. They also explained how education could help break the cycle of poverty in his family, and they encouraged him to return to school full-time.
Eventually, Koysear’s time at the center gave him confidence to return to the studies that he had once found so difficult. “I decided to go back to school again,” he says. “I want to study so that I will be able to find a good job for my future. If people are well-educated, they can be a lawyer or teacher,” he adds.
Changing the future
Koysear’s mother was very pleased to see him return to school. “If he didn’t study, then he would only ever work in the brick factory. He would earn a minimum wage for survival there,” she says. Though life is difficult for her family, Koysear’s mother knows that education will give her son the chance to improve things for the future. “So I am very excited that [World Vision] helped my son to catch up in school again,” she adds.
Today, Koysear is in eighth grade. He studies hard and does well in school. Though he still works at the brick factory on the weekends, Koysear no longer lets work get in the way of his studies. World Vision provided him with supplies, a uniform, and a bicycle for school, and has come alongside his family, building them a house and giving them food, kitchen utensils, and livestock.
“Without World Vision, I would not have a chance to go back to school,” says Koysear. “In return, I will study hard. I want to be a teacher so that I can teach young people.” Though this young boy once thought he would spend the rest of his life working in a factory, he now has confidence to dream about the future.