“When she was about four years old, she insisted that I bring her to school every day. We decided to put her in a Grade 1 class, but she disagreed. She claimed that she already knew all the lessons from Grades 1 to 3,” said Bee Tith Sayong, the father of five-year-old Bee Bann Leaksmy.
Living in Takle village Borseth commune in Kampong Speu, Bee Bann Leaksmy just turned five this year. But unlike kids her age who are either playing at home or enrolled in kindergarten classes, Leaksmy is currently registered as a Grade 4 student in Tanuon Primary School after Dr Hang Choun Naron, Minister of Education, officially signed on April 26 a document acknowledging the five-year-old girl’s intelligence.
“My daughter was hungry for reading since she was three years old after seeing me reading and preparing tests for my students. She told me she wanted to read fluently as I do. I told her that she needed to know vowels and consonants first,” added Mr Savong, who is a Physics teacher at Samdach Ov Samdach Me Borseth High School.
“Then I brought Khmer alphabet book and told her to read it. After that, she spent most of her time reading books. She also learned vowels and consonants in just three weeks. It was just so mature of her to learn that fast.”
Aside from her eagerness to learn Khmer language and alphabet, “magic girl”, as she is fondly called in her school, also studied in an English school. Leaksmy spent her afternoons at the Village of English School, where she learned basic Math.
“In English class, Leaksmy learned to count numbers by using straws at that time aside from learning the language. She was always on top of her class and was always awarded with gifts every time she got outstanding scores in her exams. I think she learned to build the commitment to always do good in her studies.”
Leaksmy, despite her tender age, surely knew that she was way beyond her peers. That’s why it became a puzzle for the five-year-old to not see her name on the list of outstanding students posted every month. She was sure she did great in her class, and had one of the best scores in tests.
“Once the monthly scores were released, Leaksmy cried badly and was disappointed that she didn’t see her name on the list. Every time that happened, she would tell us that she would strive more in her studies so she could one day see her name there.”
And Leaksmy has not fallen short of her promise ever since. She’s been sent to reading competitions from Grades 3 to 6, and she always came back home with the first prize.
It was through her triumphs in contests that her name created a buzz. People in the education sector in Borseth district were at awe of her intelligence. She was then sent to an examination to gauge her capabilities.
“I did not understand the process well, but I felt that it was over the standard of children when they put Leaksmy to do exams in Math and English. She read and wrote difficult words for four hours without any break,” said Leaksmy’s father.
It came as surprise for the family when Leaksmy’s name was approved and confirmed as part of the Grade 4 class by the Education Minister just a week after the Khmer New Year. The information spread across the country, with press people and social media giving the spotlight to the “magic girl”.
“I surely did not believe when my friend told me that my daughter is now allowed to study in Grade 4. She is still young for that. But it’s surprising and exciting to know that this is real. I know it’s the only hope Leaksmy has. She came to me and told me that her dream has now become a reality.”
According to Minh Mach, president of the education office in Borseth district, Leaksmy has done well in the tests conducted by the district office and education department of Kampong Speu.
“We gave her sets of Grade 4 exams the whole morning. Results showed that she did great on English, Math and Khmer reading and writing. Actually, for the informal test, her ability can even pass sixth grade,” Mr Mach explained.
Now that she is officially a Grade 4 student, Leaksmy continues to pave the path towards a successful futre. She said she dreams of becoming a pilot.
Before Leaksmy, a young Math prodigy Heou Teang Kimhong was also honoured by Prime Minister Hun Sen and was given financial support by the Beltei University last year. At just seven, Kimhong is already on the sixth grade.