Navigating Rivers, Dirt Roads, and Linguistic Obstacles in North-Eastern Cambodia

By Aidan McAuliffe

Car. Boat. Motorcycle. Foot.

Car. Boat. Motorcycle. Foot.

That’s how you reach the Kavet community in the most north-eastern reaches of Cambodia. Located on the edge of Virachey National Park, this indigenous community is often considered the most remote and impoverished community in the country. Not only is it bound by its geographical confines when it comes to accessing the most fundamental services, but its people must also overcome linguistic barriers. Communicating in their mother tongue, Kavet, instead of the national language, Khmer, severely limits their educational and employment opportunities.

For the past 15 years, our partner NTFP (Non-Timber Forest Products) in Ratanakiri Province, has been leading the Kavet Literacy and Non-Formal Education Programme in a bid to provide children and youth from the 3,000-strong community with more functional Khmer language skills. Upon completion of the three-year programme, implemented by 38 volunteer teachers in six remote villages, the students are able to attend government schools and thus will have more pathways to a brighter future.

While there is a strong focus on gearing the students towards a high level of proficiency in the Khmer language, there is a parallel effort placed on preserving the Kavet language itself. Until about 20 years ago, there was no written form of this language, spoken by about 30,000 people in Cambodia. NTFP has sought to nurture the Kavet language and culture through story-telling activities, publishing books, and creating pieces of art. The initiative has been recognised by UNESCO as a model mother-tongue-based bilingual education programme.

We are proud to support NTFP and the Kavet community as they navigate rivers, dirt roads, and linguistic obstacles on a journey towards inclusion and opportunity.