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Opening up a world of education

Children love to learn. If they are denied access to knowledge, we also deny them the opportunity to change their lives for the better.


The Game Changer

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As in many other places around the world, children with special learning needs in Cambodia can be misunderstood and experience social stigma.

Furthermore, the fact that, oftentimes, parents may have a poor grasp of their child’s condition and needs, particularly when it comes to autism, only compounds the issue. Unfortunately, assistive services and opportunities to access and succeed in education for these children are not always readily available. Yet thanks to a partnership project the, “Cambodia Consortium for Out of School Children (CCOOSC) – Phase II” between Action Education and Education Above All’s Educate A Child programme, some of the most disadvantaged children, including those with disabilities, are realising their right to education.

The oldest of his parents three children, 10-year-old Heng Lyhong of Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, is one such child who is making strides, though his journey had been fraught with challenges.

In 2017, after an observable delay in speaking, Lyhong’s condition was completely misdiagnosed by doctors and health experts. So, regardless of his quiet nature, he started attending school around that same time. However, his entry into the formal school system did not begin well at all. The young boy struggled to adapt to the setting at school. Seemingly socially awkward, not attaining academic milestones and on the cusp of the primary education cycle, Lyhong was expelled after about 2 years, because as his father, Hang Sokcha, explains, his son could not “concentrate in class and never played with other children.” His parents would try, in vain, to enrol him into other schools, but nothing seemed to work for Lyhong.
After much ado, he was finally and properly diagnosed with autism by medical professionals. His family was devastated. Filled with sorrow, uncertainty and constantly working to support the family, the news struck his parents like a shockwave because they felt unable to assist their son face this formidable challenge.

In response, the overwhelmed father asked his sister, Srey Mom, 41, living in another part of the country to come to Siem Reap and help care for Lyhong. Eventually, she agreed to come to her brother’s aid. 

“I don't really understand autism, but I do know that it prevents my nephew from developing normally,” says Srey Mom. She continues, “Because his parents are always working to support the family, I have to devote more time and be more patient to take care of him, even if it is very difficult.” 

From the left: Mrs. Sereini, Lyhong, classmate and Srey Mom

Fortunately, for the beleaguered family in 2020, Hang Sokcha came across some vital information via social media regarding “integrated classes” on offer by the Rabbit School Organization (RSO), a consortium member of the EAA-AE-supported CCOOSC – Phase II initiative! This was a game changer. The integrated classes, specifically allowed Lyhong to go to school with other autistic children, and it turned out to be just what he needed. He adjusted well to the new setting, his classmates and focussed on his lessons. The boy even began to write simple phrases! Lyhong’s progress with the RSO started to noticeably translate at home as well, as he became self-sufficient regarding meal time and bathing.

Action Education, programme manager, Khatty Ekvisoth asserts, “inclusive education is very important for children with disabilities as it helps those children with their social development, as well as their different talents.”

"inclusive education is very important for children with disabilities as it helps those children with their social development, as well as their different talents."

Recalling the dramatic change, Srey Mom says cheerfully, “I couldn't stop crying when my nephew first greeted me. I was ecstatic about his rapid improvement in knowledge, attitude and hygiene. It relieved me greatly.” 

Ultimately, Lyhong would study with RSO for about one year, before passing the Individual Child Progress Assessment, clearing him to transition to formal schooling in 2022. This was a huge success! 

At the moment, he is a Class 2 student at Khnat Primary School, a frequent asker of questions and loves Maths. Apparently, he enjoys doing calculations and is quick about it, too. In addition, Lyhong enjoys learning about music and the arts. When asked what he would like to be when he grows up, Lyhong says, “I love music. I want to be a drummer.”


Of course, the new school environment with different children, teachers and the like was not without its share of challenges for Lyhong, as one might expect to be the case for any child. But, with the help of a patient instructor, a caring aunt and supportive parents, he settled in well.

Though she has to spend additional time with her student to ensure his full comprehension, his dedication cannot be questioned, as his teacher, Mrs. Sereini remarks, “[Lyhong] is committed to his education because he has never failed a class or homework assignment.” 

Reflecting on where the boy is today, Chuon Sophy, local supervisor with RSO, maintains, “It’s important to educate children like Lyhong with special needs, because all children no matter with disabilities or without, should have the same right to access quality education…”


"Humanity will not overcome the immense challenges we face unless we ensure that children get the quality education that equips them to play their part in the modern world." -- HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser


14.5 million

enrolment commitments for OOSC




retention rate


Teachers trained


schools and classrooms