Kea Eng is JWOC's Free Classes Program Manager and a former Scholarship Student. Now he coordinates the Free Classes teachers and ensures over 800 students access quality learning opportunities! We caught up with him to find out his story...
What does education mean to you? Why is it important for our community and Cambodia?
Education is interaction, freedom, experiences and sharing to others. It is important for our local community and Cambodia because it means everyone is getting proper, quality and equal education that supports morals and growth. If we gain the knowledge and experience from school and society we can share with others and develop ourselves without violence, changing people’s mindset, awareness and courage to think, grow and to reflect upon one's community and/or country.
How has your education impacted your life?
I am a JWOC former scholarship student and now Free Classes Program Manager (managing 40 scholarship teachers within the program). The reason I’ve reached this level is because I have received a quality, equal and proper education from others and from JWOC.
I was born in 1992 in my hometown - 30km from Siem Reap town to the east. There are 5 members in my family including me, an elder brother, a younger sister, and my parents. I am a second child in the family. My elder brother and younger sister stopped studying when they graduated from primary school because of our family situation, so their education is very low. I was the only sibling that was able to continue studying until, through JWOC, I graduated with a bachelor degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in TESOL and my family situation has improved as they’ve come back from Thailand (where they were working) to live closer to each other.
Before I became a JWOC scholarship student, my parents could not afford to pay for my university as they were farmers and did not own any land. My father became a builder or day labourer in a farm and often lived away from home. Through this job he could just receive a small salary to support the family so asked my brother and sister to stop studying in grade nine; he kept me in school because he knew that I loved to learn. After that, my elder brother and father went and worked in other provinces to make money to support the family; keeping me, my sister and mother at home alone. We started to grow the vegetables and plants to sell and support my learning, but it didn’t work well.
|Kea cycles in JWOC's 2016 Race4Education|
Their continued support and encouragement helped me to succeed in my studying. They helped me until I graduated high school and passed, despite many obstacles. To pay them back, I wanted to earn money to support my family, but I thought that my knowledge from school and my teaching experience (from volunteering) wasn’t enough to get a steady job to work and well-paid. So I decided I wanted to go to university; however, I didn’t have the money to pay for the school fees. I was given information from one of my friends about JWOC scholarships so I decided to look and apply as soon as I could. After I received the scholarship at JWOC I could still not find well-paid job so part of my family moved to Thailand to find a better income, leaving me alone in Siem Reap.
When I was in the first year at university, I became a receptionist in a small guest house which supported my living and food. Six months later, I had become a part-time teacher of English in an international school (for a year). When I started my third year at university, I became a caretaker and teacher of English at JWOC before being promoted to be a full-time Free Classes Support Officer at JWOC. Finally, I become a Free Classes Program Manager after I graduated in September 2015, now I’m able to offer everyone the opportunity of a quality education through my program.
The story of myself, my family and how I have worked to help my community has, in turn, hugely impacted and influenced my education. I hope that through this experience I can inspire scholarship students and others.
What do you believe the future of education is for your community and Cambodia?
I believe that the future of education is going to gradually improve to be more interactive and of a high quality for my community and Cambodia. If we can build many scholars to understand education and its practice, then we can apply effective strategies to the current system in Cambodia. This process will need time but is worth the investment.
My last message to parents and students:
“Parents have to send their children to school to receive education and knowledge for a better future. All students must learn through school and other experiences to develop ourselves, our families, communities and our country.”