Career counsellors in Cambodia brought learning online – “It has been rewarding”

Developing career counselling and training new career counsellors is an important part of Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) work in Cambodia. Because of Covid-19, all contact teaching was put on hold in March, but Mak Buntith and his fellow career counsellors found new ways to continue working.

30-year-old Mak Buntith was one of the first career counsellors to graduate in Cambodia. For the past five years, he has worked as a career counsellor in a high school in Anlong Vil in Battambang province. His work also includes training new career counsellors and offering them support and mentoring.

”I applied for the training because I thought that as a career counsellor, I could offer new opportunities to the lives and futures of young people. It was also a chance for me to try something new,” he says.

In Cambodia, many children drop out of school. One of the reasons is that young people do not have enough information about their study or career options, and their families are unable to support them in these matters. Career counselling helps pupils recognise their own strengths and make plans concerning their studies and possible career paths.

“Career counselling has even changed me as a person. I have learned to deal with my emotions and to think critically. My communication skills have improved, thanks to training and experience,” says Buntith.

Career counsellors available online and over the phone

In mid-March, schools in Cambodia closed due to coronavirus. In rural parts of the country, school children live far apart, which makes it difficult to arrange home visits or small study groups. Long-distance teaching is very challenging and requires support.

Career counsellors trained by FCA have responded to the challenge by designing and shooting video lectures about career counselling. One of the challenges they face is an inadequate internet connection – not all children have access to online services or discussion groups.

It is important for pupils to still be able to reach their career counsellor whenever they fail to understand something. They often also contact their career counsellor about challenges that affect their learning. Among the most common problems are learning difficulties and family issues such as domestic violence. Due to this, in addition to the videos, support is also available over the phone or in online discussion groups.

Shooting the first videos was exciting. Buntith was worried about whether the material’s quality was high enough.

”Both the new career counsellors and the pupils have found the videos helpful. Organising remote teaching has been rewarding, as it has allowed us to try different, new things and to learn new skills.”

Text: Sari Turunen

Photo: Long Ratana