Voices of Cambodia: Ra Sovanna

19 03 2012

We are happy to post our second edition of “Voices of Cambodia.” This one comes from a high school math teacher, Vanna. He is an English student of ours and is currently planning a summer project with Tim. This interview was conducted in English.


Name: Ra Sovanna

Age: 25

Occupation: High School Math Teacher

Tell me about yourself.

My family name is Ra; my full name is Ra Sovanna. I was the first child in a family with five members. I have two brothers and two sisters. My father is a teacher like me. He works in the District Office of Education. My mother is a farmer. I finished school in 2006. After that, I got a scholarship to study mathematics at Phnom Penh. At college, the school provided me to study English three years; the program was from Mary Knoll. I finished college in 2010. After I finished, I took an exam and passed it. Then I studied pedagogy one more year as a teacher trainee. Then, the school director assigns teachers to a province where they will teach. In October 2011, I started my new career as a teacher in Kampong Kdey until now.

What do you do in an average day?

Usually, I get up in the morning and water my trees—I told you I have mango trees around my pond—before school. I need to water them all and then take a bath and prepare myself for school. I don’t like eating breakfast at home so I eat at the school restaurant or in the market. I don’t want to waste time cooking in the morning.

Usually, I have 15 hours a week to teach. Some of the day, I am free, some of the day, I have to teach. Monday through Friday, I teach my own private classes from 11-12 and from 4-5 in the evening. After class, I am just coming home. Usually, my family is doing housework. I am maintaining my cows, looking to see if there is some cow trying to eat my mango trees. At night, after dinner, usually we join together watching TV. Maybe we spend 1-2 hours on TV shows. Sometimes, I don’t watch TV, I listen to the radio instead. I like listening to the news programs. Sometimes, I focus on Australia radio to practice my English listening.

Usually, I spend 1-2 hours preparing lessons for tomorrow, completing exercises in the book. Not every day though. Maybe on Saturday evenings, I just listen to music, don’t want to do anything else.

What do you want American people to know about Cambodia?

I really want them to know about the Cambodian culture, especially in the countryside how they are keeping their houses traditionally. And especially the weddings and national holidays like Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben. We show our nationality by Khmer culture.

How has Cambodia changed in your lifetime?

Many things have been changed during my lifetime, both positive and negative. Now, I just want to talk about the positive. According to my district, the infrastructure is much better developed than before. When I was young, the road could not be traveled easily. The road was very small, very few cars and motorcycles as well. Now, all of the roads are changing. They are trying to expand the road on the way to my village [just outside of Kampong Kdey]. They added rubber [blacktop] so we can travel more easily than before.

The educations system is much better than before. Before, many people did not value education, didn’t want children in school. They would just copy the parents on the farm, not go to school. They would work on the farm according to their mother and father. Now, people know too much about that. I think it’s because the local authority is working hard, trying to show the benefit of education. Now, more students in my village study higher and higher. Like me, I’m an example because I completed my Bachelor’s degree and even a pedagogy degree.

About the negative points, I think people in the village tend to use violence more than before. When I was young, there was few cases of violence. Now at funerals with dancing parties, usually the fighting occurs. Many adult people are in danger in this situation. Parents are concerned about the situation. When there is a wedding, there is a dancing party as well. Usually, fighting occurs. Yesterday at night, there was a wedding in my village. There was fighting between two gangs. They used a knife to cut [someone].

How do you think Cambodia will be different in ten years?

I think 10 years later, Cambodia will be improved, especially the infrastructure will be much better than now. Now, they construct new roads in many, many places so people travel easily. Electricity and water supply will also be available in the villages. In my village, there is no electricity, only water supply, but I think in 10 years there will be electricity.

According to the government policy for the merging of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries, the education system will be much better, especially relating to teachers’ salaries and the testing system. We still have corruption, but I hope 10 years later it will be reduced.

Also, gasoline. Now, the price is too expensive, but I hope 10 years later the government tries to take out gasoline from the wells, and the price will be much lower.

If you could improve one aspect of your community, what would you improve?

I would like to improve education. Still many children are not available for study because their family is too poor and needs help from the sons and daughters. Education is important to improve in the village. Besides education, I would improve electricity. Now, in my village, everyone buys a battery and has to bring it into Kampong Kdey market every two or three days to charge it. We spend lots of money everyday charging batteries.

If you won $10,000, what would you do or buy?

I will buy a computer for myself because I want to use Internet at home. Now, I have a plan to buy a laptop, maybe next year. The rest of the money, maybe I give to my younger sister. She is now living in Siem Reap and wants to study for a Bachelors degree but is not studying yet. She is living with a Japanese organization that gives her knowledge and teaches her about the Japanese language.




3 responses

19 03 2012
Travis Thompson

I love this idea for a blog post series. I’ll keep watching for more!

17 04 2012

I have to chuckle at his hope for lower gas prices.

22 06 2012
School Year Wrap up « TimKat's Travels

[…] around that I would dare say are inspirations. First and foremost, is my counterpart and friend, Vanna. As a first year teacher, he didn’t get paid for seven months of teaching. He borrowed money, […]

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