- February 27, 2023 6:00 PM
- August 6, 2021 9:51 AM
- December 2, 2022 3:20 PM
PHNOM PENH – Nou Samnang quit school in grade 9 due to poverty and family debt, becoming a babysitter for foreigners and then a cleaner in a French bar. Now, aged 30, he is a graduate in international relations.
He is far from a typical bachelor's graduate who normally finishes university by early 20 years old.
Samnang was born into a poor family in Kandal province’s Kandal Steung district. He dropped out of school in 2010 and expected to start working as an auto mechanic in Phnom Penh as it provided a good income to support his family in his hometown.
In Phnom Penh, Samnang stayed with acquaintances of his parents but couldn’t work. With no income, he had to do housework he had never done before.
“When I saw her children go to school, I suddenly wanted to go to school and realized that I was wrong about quitting school,” Samnang said. "I felt sorry for myself. I should not have quit school and come to the city."
With a glimpse of a society where education remains an important part of life and understanding the grimness of poverty, Samnang decided to return to education.
Samnang asked his homeowner if he could study English for an hour a day at an organization near the house. He also took free courses on computers and chapei dang veng at another organization. At the same time, he got his first job as a babysitter for a foreign family. His first salary was $55 per month.
Courage and Perseverance
However, studying many things at the same time meant he had less time to do housework. He decided to to live alone to pursue his new life goals: education and developing himself.
Living alone was not easy. He cleaned a French bar for $95 per month. It was an uncomfortable night job but it let him study during the day.
Thanks to his talent and eloquence, Samnang also got a chance to perform chapei dang veng in Singapore in 2013.
Courage, perseverance and hard work were rewarded with another golden chance. The director of the Empowering Youth in Cambodia Organization, where he was studying English, continued to offer him English and computer courses.
The director wanted Samnang to study at a public school again so that he could attend university. The director also allowed Samnang to work as an assistant and receptionist at a music school that is part of his organisation.
Nou Samnang quit school in grade 9 due to poverty and family debt, becoming a babysitter for foreigners and then a cleaner in a French bar. Photo provided.
“Just hearing this, I was really happy like I’ve won the lottery because it had been a dream for a long time. I just did not have anyone to support and guide the enrollment process,” Samnang said, recalling when the director gave him this opportunity.
Studying is Never Satisfied
Samnang returned to grade 9 in 2015 at Wat Koh High School and he passed the national exam that year. Three years later, Samnang passed the high school exam, obtaining grade D.
While preparing for the exam, Samnang also received a scholarship to study English at the Australian Center for Education for three years.
Samnang finished high school aged 24. The director then encouraged him to pursue a bachelor's degree in international relations at Paragon International University.
On the first day at university, Samnang said he felt ashamed because he was too old but he was still passionate about learning.
“I was ashamed to go to a school where other students all dressed up neatly and fashionably, and the school is also modern," he said.
“But I did not think much about these things because I already set a clear goal and no matter how hard it was I had to persevere until graduation and would never give up.”
Thanks to his talent and eloquence, Samnang also got a chance to perform chapei dang veng in Singapore in 2013. Photo provided.
Samnang graduated this year. The degree is a great asset because it has helped him have a better life. His well-paid job helps him to support his family.
“Learning is the most important thing and there is no obstacle preventing me even without money and older age,” he said, adding that he is proud that he decided to go back to school and has come so far.
Samnang intends to pursue a master's degree in the future as he is eager to learn more.
“I am still not satisfied although I am very old now, because studying is my dream,” he said.