21-year old Sinat graduated from high school this year, the first child in her family to do so.

Her family had moved to Sihanoukville from the poor rural countryside when Sinat was just a young girl. The parents moved in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their children. Sinat had been attending school for a few years before moving here but stopped when the family could not afford to continue to send her to school.

In 2011, with the support of M’Lop Tapang’s “Back to School” program, Sinat, who was 13 years old at the time, reentered the public school system at the Grade 4 level. The “Back to School Program” assists families who cannot afford to send their children to public school. Although public school is officially free for all Cambodian children, families are still required to pay for school uniforms and supplies. For many of the poorest families, these costs prevent them from sending their children to school.

Over the last 8 years Sinat worked hard at her studies but is wasn’t always easy. “I really wanted to quit when I was in Grade 11, but after talking to the community counsellor I decided to stay in school and I’m glad it did.” This year Sinat graduated from high school, the first person in her family to do so. She is now working as a teacher and continues her own education at University, which she is paying for herself. Sinat also has two younger siblings, a brother and a sister, who are still in local public schools with the support of M’Lop Tapang.

I am so happy to have had M’Lop Tapang support me for so many years. With their help I never had a problem with school supplies and my family’s life if better. I think education is so important and I really want to encourage students to stay in school and not drop out to find work because that is a short-tome solution only.

*name and photo changed for confidentiality