04/11/2014 02:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Where Literacy Founders in Cambodia, Young Teachers Are Turning Things Around

What if only one in 100 women where you lived knew how to read? That is the situation among Phnong-speaking people in the remote area of Mondulkiri, Cambodia. But an innovative program is making education spread like wildfire!


@Lotus Outreach

Lotus Outreach International, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to enhancing education and economic opportunity for marginalized communities in Cambodia, has launched the Phnong Education Initiative (PEI). PEI provides access to primary education to indigenous people in their native language of Phnong in one of the farthest reaches of Cambodia's forested countryside.

Mondulkiri province is the home of this indigenous minority which survives principally on subsistence agriculture and gathering from the local wilderness. Here, literacy rates founder at 5.3 percent overall, and a year 2000 study placed female literacy at less than 1 percent.

With few educated locals, most teachers in this area speak Khmer, the official language of Cambodia. PEI corrects this by training Phnong students to teach as soon as following grade nine, so that the number of literate Phnong can multiply as quickly as possible.

The cost for a year of teacher training for a young primary teacher is just $220 per year, and the cost of a year of primary education for a girl is only $250 per year. Visit: for more information on this program and check out this short video: