Ratana Adjusts to Learning at Home
In 2019, Ratana’s life was changed by one unplanned meeting. Her mother happened to meet an ISF social worker visiting her neighbourhood on a recruitment mission. Learning more about our holistic Education Programme, she saw it as an opportunity for her daughter to have a better life through education. Ratana’s family lives in a community called Derm Sleng. What makes this community unique is that it is built over a graveyard. Inhabitants live in improvised homes next to, or on top of, actively used concrete mausoleums while they await relocation.
11-year-old Ratana lives with her parents, a grandmother and four siblings. Until last year, her family’s limited resources meant that she didn’t have a chance to get an education. Her parents are itinerant workers, her mother is a scavenger and her father a labourer at various construction sites. On the best days, they struggle to earn enough to feed their family. After going through our screening processes, which identifies the most disadvantaged children, Ratana joined ISF as a grade 1 student. Her enrollment means not only an education and healthcare for her, but also nutritional support for her family. This support is pivotal in keeping her from being pushed into the workplace to help feed her family.
Though our Chbar Ampov learning center is closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Ratana continues learning at home. She comes to ISF to pick up lessons and worksheets a few times a week. While the situation is unprecedented and learning this way is new to Ratana, she’s developed ways to cope. The young learner prefers helping her family with household chores during the day and studying and doing homework at night. She says learning by herself can be challenging because she can’t ask her teachers for immediate help. However, Ratana is happy that she does have some opportunities to speak with them face-to-face about lessons when she drops off her work.
Despite these issues, Ratana regularly completes her homework and hasn’t missed a deadline yet. She also receives good scores overall. Her parents are quite proud of her and encourage her academic engagement. When asked if she thinks learning at home is effective, Ratana said, “I am so happy that I can continue learning despite school being closed. I think it is an effective way to learn.”
She reports learning a lot from the Khmer and Maths exercises that her teachers have made for her to practice at home. Though she acknowledges the arrangement presents unique challenges. “When I study at school, I only need to focus on my studies, and I get to play with my friends during break. But at home, I must help my parents with household chores before studying.”
While in-person classes are not in session, ISF staff have taught her and other students how to wash their hands properly along with overall hygiene. Nurses have also shared with students useful tips to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection. Though she receives hand sanitizer from us, Ratana would like ISF to also provide more soap to her family to help all members bathe effectively. In closing, she revealed, “I really miss my school, teachers and friends. I wish the school would reopen soon.”
*Names of children under 18 years old have been changed to protect their privacy.