The Kumar Phum Thom (Kids of Phum Thom Village) Project seeks to provide assistance to Khmer Krom Children in combating dropouts and retaining them in school through small scholarship funds that aims to reduced family burdern through asssistance in buying books, clothings, and food. Additionally our vision is to strengthen their mother tounge language before or while concurrently enrolling in the Vietnamese [national language] schools because we believe that by understanding the first language children will be better equiped to cultivate critical thinking and learning in the main stream national language.
This project is limited to one Khmer Krom village right now because of our constraints. We will focus on Phum Thom village in Loc Ninh district, Binh Phuoc Province, Vietnam.
Initially at its inception, we wanted to start a general educational support foundation for all Khmer-Krom (Vietnamese of Cambodian origin) indigenous children because as a whole, they are a socially disadvantaged group in Vietnamese society.
There are several factors that hinders these children’s progress and handicaped their potential capacities; Access to education, family poverty, and misplaced or short-sighted value on education.
These factors help to contribute to their cycle of hardship and feeds further into their socially and economically disadvantaged positions.
The problem of education is that access guarantees neither quality nor retention. Yes, Khmer Krom children have access to education, but what good are schools if you can’t keep children from dropping out? AsiaTimes noted recently in its June 6th edition that Vietnam State news ran a report in 2008 which AsiaTimes quotes:
Khmer students were “dropping like flies” out of school. “Most of the students with bad learning capacity are of Khmer minority; they cannot speak Vietnamese well and cannot follow the study curriculum,” a local teacher told them. The report said 56% of drop-outs are from the Khmer minority, with 30% of this figure leaving due to their “inability to learn”.
The viability of Khmer-Krom children to be retained in the Vietnamese educational system is a challenged with multiple faces. The problem isn’t as straightforward as Khmer children simply have a “low capicity to learn”. It is a complicated balance of social economic background of their parents; medium of access or language and cultural barrier in Vietnamese based education; and combined that with a short-sightness in the value of education developed based on having been traditionally deprived of fair opportunities to advance in the society regardless of one’s educational background just because of culture.
The Kumar Phum Thom Project hopes to instill values and highlight the importance and need for education and challenging Khmer Krom children to an active engagement in their development in order to challenge the status quo of their position and future in their homeland.
Kumar Phum Thom’s current project is helping to sponsor the Khmer language class in the Wat Phum Thom Temple. Before the temple open up the afternoon class the village children were learning in makeshift classroom at another pulpil’s home who acted as a teacher. It was running into this that we were inspired and decided to begin our project.