When conflict-scarred Cambodia emerged from the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979, there were no formal structures in place to educate the country's deaf or blind children.
And although Cambodia has enjoyed relatively rapid development in the past three decades, the country remains poor, with its education system limited. This leaves the estimated one million people with disabilities — 250,000 of whom who are deaf or hard of hearing and 170,000 who are blind or visually impaired — at a permanent disadvantage, excluded from the national school system and wider society.
Krousar Thmey was founded to enable the social integration of deaf or blind children through education, the arts and other support in accordance with each child's traditions and beliefs.
The organisation operates in 14 provinces across Cambodia, running five special schools to meet the needs of deaf or blind children from kindergarten through to high school, and 36 integrated classes in rural areas. It also runs a braille workshop and sign language committee that adapt learning resources for universities, and has introduced live signing to national TV news broadcasts.
Krousar Thmey welcomes hundreds of pupils to its Khmer arts and culture school each year introducing the children to traditional dance, drawing, music, sculpture and shadow theatre. The organisation's academic and career counselling department also helps young adults access higher education, training, apprenticeships and employment.
Krousar Thmey works with over 2,500 children and their families each year. In 2012 alone, almost 1,000 deaf or blind children enrolled in the organisation's Special Education programme. Many former students are currently attending university or have found permanent employment.
The organisation is in the process of transitioning its Special Education programme to the country's Ministry of Education by 2021, in order to ensure its long-term sustainability and integration into the national curriculum. A recent milestone has been to register all Krousar Thmey teachers as official government employees.
Photos: Kimlong Meng / Majority World
Posted by Katie on 11 Feb 2014
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