Many people consider teachers as “second parents”, as they not only impart knowledge but also guide and encourage students to pursue good deeds and study diligently.
An excellent example of this generous spirit and concern for their pupils is Rin Thary, a 28-year-old contracted teacher at a remote primary school in Battambang province.
She regularly spends her own funds and solicits contributions from donors to purchase school supplies and clothing for impoverished students, both from her own school and others in the district.
Thary works at Ping Pong Primary School, in Ping Pong village, Lvea commune, in Battambang province’s Bavel district. As she resides in Stung Dach village in Bavel commune, she has to commute more than 10km each day on her motorbike.
She explained that the majority of her students came from underprivileged families, which prompted her to explore ways to assist them. To show her empathy to the students in her class, she used the income from her part-time job – tutoring private school students during non-school hours – to purchase school supplies and clothes, which were distributed to her students. This act of kindness was posted on TikTok.
“After my post went viral, I began to hear from philanthropists in almost every province. Some generous people sent $5 or $20, while some deposited as much as $100 into my bank account. As a result, I was able to offer support to the students of several other schools in the district, and even help out some of their families,” she said.
“I did this because I grew up in similar circumstances. My parents were very poor, and had to migrate to find work in Thailand, so my brother and I had to live with our aunt. It was a very tough time for us,” she added.
Her support is aimed at encouraging students to overcome poverty-related obstacles to their studies, and to discourage them from dropping out of school.
“Education is crucial for gaining knowledge – without it their lives will be more difficult,” she said.
“I have explained to them that people who have no education must rely on their physical strength to earn a living, unlike those who can use their skills to support themselves. I encourage them to pursue their education and study hard. I also tell them how lucky they are to have parents who support them and help them at home, as I did not have such a privileges,” she added.
She recalled she was just seven years old when her parents were forced to move to Thailand.
Despite being so young, and not fully comprehending the situation, Thary was determined to study hard for the future of her family.
“I had no one to support my studies but the teachers at my school. My teachers played a major role in my life, and I promised myself that when I grew up, I would become a teacher and try to make the same positive differences in my students’ lives as my teachers made in mine,” she said.
She remembered that she was frequently absent from school when she was very young, as she felt shame at her poor results and was afraid that she would never be able to keep up with her fellow students.
“Sometimes I could not complete my homework, as unlike my classmates, I had nobody to assist me at home,” she added.
She remembered that the other children looked down on her, as she often wore the same clothes to school and rarely had any money.
She added that due to constant criticism and belittlement from her classmates, she became angry and frustrated.
When she turned ten-years-old, however, she was able to channel her frustration into applying herself to her studies. Her focus and dedication paid off when she passed the grade 12 examination in 2016, while many of her classmates failed.
She went on to study accounting at the Vanda Institute in Battambang, graduating in 2019.
“During my studies at the institute, I worked for a private company to earn money to pay for my tuition fees. I had a dual role as a secretary and accountant,” she explained.
However, she never forgot her promise to herself and was determined to become a teacher. Unfortunately, in three attempts, she was unable to pass the state teacher’s exam, and sought alternative teaching employment.
The culmination of her journey came when she was appointed as a contracted teacher at Ping Pong Primary School, where she has now taught Grade 5 in Khmer literature for two years. In order to support her students, she tutors private school students in her spare time.
She said that thanks to her constant encouragement, the students in her class never stopped studying. Not only are the students fond of her, but their parents also admire her dedication. In addition to supporting students in her school, she extends her help to other schools in Bavel district.
Additionally, she also provides assistance to needy families whenever she can.
“The gifts I distribute may not be substantial, but they serve to alleviate their burdens for a brief period,” she explained.
“I still want to become an official, licensed state teacher. If I could pass the exam I would be overjoyed, as teaching is a profession that I love and am passionate about,” she said.
Pat Thoeun, the principal of Ping Pong School, told The Post that thanks to Thary’s efforts, 10 hand washing basins have been installed and are almost ready for use by students.
He said the school has one concrete building with four classrooms, one of which is used as an office and storeroom.
“There is also an old wooden building with only one room, which we use as an additional classroom. However, due to its age and condition I don’t allow students to study there when it rains or if there are strong winds, for fear of an accident. If Thary could attract donors that could build a new classroom, the students, staff and I would be extremely grateful,” he said.
The school currently has over 190 students, including those studying at the kindergarten level, he added.
He said that due to her conscientious work, she was hugely popular with the students and their parents. He had met with the school committee and requested the Bavel district education office retain her at the school. He would like to offer her a state teacher’s role, but was unsure of the process.