What motivates some to succeed academically?

Today I had a very unique opportunity to travel to a remote Cambodian village with Arun Sothea, Executive Director of Sovann Komar, an orphanage in Phnom Penh.

To get there we drove about 45 minutes outside of Phnom Penh, boarded a ferry that crossed a large river, went overland by motorbike another 10 minutes, took a small boat for another 15 minutes over seasonally flooded land, and finally drove another 10 minutes by motorbike. Needless to say I wasn’t clear at all where we were.

Arun was visiting families that he works with in various capacities, such as education and health, to see how they are doing and to hear their ideas of what they need in order to better their lives.

When we were boarding the small spot for the 15 minute ride, Arun informed me that when he was a child that boat service didn’t exist. However he needed to cross that water in order to get to school every day and so he *swam* to school. He said that the snakes and scorpions in the water weren’t so bothersome–it was the centipedes that would bite. OK so if you’ve heard the “when I was a kid I had to walk 5 miles in the snow uphill both ways” story then I think this one ups the ante.

So I couldn’t resist but to ask Arun “What motivated you to swim to school every day, and stick with it, when most of the kids dropped out?” And his reply made me laugh: “My relatives told me that I was too skinny to be a good farmer, and so I’d better study.” I can relate to that!

Arun continued on to say that he was told that his parents (who were killed in the Khmer Rouge regime) were smart, educated people, and so it made sense for him to also become educated. So here we have a similar story to DDD operator Bunthy’s story, where there is a “runs in the family” theme to education.

That makes me wonder–can family’s attitudes to the value of education be changed? If so, how? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Leave a Reply