An Update on Sothea
Offering free English classes to youth in his home province, Sothea moved back to Phnom Penh where he volunteers with ISF as a Teaching Assistant.
Across Cambodia, fluency in written and spoken English is considered advantageous. As the country has globalised, local and international businesses have integrated the language into their communications - magnifying the importance of English for finding gainful employment and accessing educational opportunities. In Cambodia’s rural provinces, there are few qualified teachers. Coupled with limited resources and costly classes, teaching and learning English is a challenge. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, one innovative student provided free accessible classes in his home province of Prey Veng. Now back in Phnom Penh, he reflects on how his past and present experiences as a teacher and volunteer teaching assistant have propelled him toward his goals.
When the pandemic forced Sothea and his family to relocate back to the provinces, he decided to offer free English language classes to children in his community. Struggling from isolation and relocation, he committed to focusing on the positive and setting goals for personal growth. Juggling his academics, teaching, and supporting his family’s farm, he reflects on how he became more independent, responsible, and mature. Explaining his belief that “learning can happen everywhere, not just in the classroom” he not only lifted his community but learned class management and how to tailor teaching strategies for different abilities.
After returning to the capital city in November 2021, Sothea was offered a volunteer teacher assistant position at ISF, where he helps facilitate class activities with ISF’s catch up students. Different from the at-home classroom, Sothea’s learning a different teaching style and how to direct, delegate, and discuss with his peers. He shares, "my teaching style has evolved. [With ISF’s English Teacher Josh’s mentorship] I have learned to involve students more actively and apply various teaching styles with different students while improving my English listening and speaking skills.”
Like many others, Sothea faced challenges during the pandemic. With perseverance, dedication and adaptability, he passed his Grade 12 exams while contributing to his community’s growth. Now an ISF graduate, he studies System & Network Administration and Web Programming at Passerelles Numerique - where he received a two-year scholarship. Although he’s no longer able to teach youth in his home province they stay in contact via social media.
An advocate for education, Sothea shares that:
“The entire experience has taught me to believe in my abilities and work hard to achieve my goals. Moving back to my hometown and spending time with my family, I’ve realised how much my family and community love and care for me.”
Wanting the best for others, he hopes NGOs and the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports will continue to build capacity, improve access to education, and allocate funds to support students in Cambodia’s rural areas.