Proud to Teach “Children with Special Needs”

Cambodian society often looks down on children with disabilities. Some kids just never make it to class. The Cambodian Consortium for Out-of-School Children project, however, has given these kids new chances thanks to cooperation between the Education Above All Foundation (EAA) and Aide et Action (AEA) through the global program Educate A Child (EAC). 

Moreover  teachers of special education are lacking in number and very limited resources to teach in the special education. However, due to CCOSC s interventions, Rabbit School as part of the member led the actions to tackle the issue.

Ms. Miech Sounan, a 27-year-old teacher of an integrated class at Toul Kork Primary School, under cooperation between the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) and Rabbit School Organization (RSO). “To be a teacher is my childhood dream, and the choice of teaching children with intellectual disabilities is my love and sympathy”, said Ms. Miech Sounan.

Born in Takeo province and moved to the city to pursue her bachelor's degree in Accountant in the evening-part-time class. Sounan started working a full-time job with RSO as an assistant to a teacher in 2018. At first, she thought that taking a job as an assistant to a teacher of children with intellectual disabilities was just a temporary job to pay her university tuition fee only. At the early stage of her career, together with RSO, Action Education provided $120 as a wage and technical pieces of training and encouraged her to be a professional special teacher in her teaching career. Two years later, Sounan graduated with a Bachelor's Degree and was promoted officially as a qualified teacher with a one-year contract at the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS).  She is now an official state teacher and received a better salary.

“Teaching in the integrated classes, showed me another society. Loving and feeling sympathised among students/children with intellectual disabilities has taken me here for five years. When I got sick and absent I was also concerned about my students here, whether they (substitute teachers) could manage to follow or take care of the children as fast as they did. I feel that my students with intellectual disabilities need special care and learning to get into society and at least know how to help themselves when they are alone” Sounan added.

Sounan is the teacher at Level 3 of an integrated class of students aged between 8 to 12 years old, who recently teaches 25 students with autism, Down syndrome, and children with intellectual disabilities​ from Monday to Friday with two shifts from morning and afternoon. She is one of the 62 specialised teachers of RSO who employs an individualised curriculum that caters for the unique needs of each student by using diverse pedagogical and therapeutic methods, to nurture an inclusive vision of education.

“The big challenge is discrimination among many people who still consider children with intellectual disability by focusing on their disability rather than regard them as special children. I don’t put any blame on the general public perception because of their knowledge and overreaction. I can tell the children with intellectual disabilities are not dangerous, they are innocent people”, Sounan stated.

Sounan becomes an official teacher at the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport (MoEYS) in 2021, under a proposal from RSO to the MoEYS, she received a salary from the MoEYS on the top of a stipend from RSO and Action Education in Cambodia. She is now married to another specialised teacher working at the same organisation/school in early 2023. Now she has never thought about other future careers besides working as a teacher at  RSO/integrated class.

“I am not impressed with another job or teaching regular students. I am proud of being one of the rare resource persons in teaching children with intellectual disabilities. Every child who gets through my classes will at least improve one positive part of their difficulties.” Ms. Miech Sounan claims.

RSO is one of Action Education’s partners in the Consortium for Out-Of school Children since 2014 and has been working on providing education to children with intellectual disabilities in Cambodia for over the last 25 years to promote the rights of Children with Intellectual Disabilities, with equal dignity and access to education, regardless of their origin, nature or severity of their impairments.

As of 2023, RSO provides education to 670 children with intellectual disabilities, of which 369 are girls, with the goal to integrate children with intellectual disabilities into inclusive classes whenever possible but also to foster shared spaces and activities.

In addition to its comprehensive education program, RSO also extends its support to 2,800 Out-of-School Children in the four target provinces where the schools are located. Among them, 1,237 students were granted scholarships in 2022, of which 589 are girls. Moreover, RSO provided livelihood support to 80 families, recognizing the importance of holistic well-being and sustainable livelihoods for the community.

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