They say that money makes the world go around. Cambodia is no exception. The local people are incredible. The whole of Shianoukville seems to be run (but not owned) by ex-pats. But the Khmer people here are so amazing. The whole town seems to be funded by the beach sellers. Whole families of beach sellers: lobster, crab, squid, pancakes, bracelets, fireworks, drinks, cans, manicures, pedicures, threading, massage. You name it, someone sells it. Often, it’s the children that sell though.
There has been a big push of recent to get children into school rather than them beach selling. M’Lop Tapang seems to be the biggest organisation that we have found. They employ the parents and young beach sellers, and pay for their children to go to school. They train the parents and ex-child sellers (aged around 15-25 years) in different skills; from sewing to printing, painting to sculpting and woodwork. All of this seems great, but if you listen to the children, they are wanting to be earning the money.
We spoke to a child yesterday who said he hadn’t earned much money today because he couldn’t start work till 3 because he had to go to school. And he seemed really angry about having to be at school. I guess just sending the children to school is not the way forward, the education needs to alter the way these children think – rather than being about the immediate gratification of $1 or $2 a day, the children need to be shown that they can earn so much more with an education.
As a teacher I am saddened, because I know the value of education, and how it could help these children in the future. But I understand that education on it’s own will not change anything. The children have not been shown the benefits, the parents haven’t either. These children will be continually fighting to be out of school earning money, so they won’t be learning properly, and thus the education will sadly be wasted. Until it is possible to alter the mindset, sending children to school will not be enough.
Today, we spoke to another child and asked him why he was not at school. He told us that there was no school today, but if we bought a bracelet from him he would use the dollar to pay for school tomorrow. ‘Open your heart and open your wallet’ was how he told us about his need for school, about how education would help him, but his conversation somehow always turned back to money.
What do you think can be done to help these children? Is education really that important? Or should we be happy that these children are happy working? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.