Back to school is fast approaching for Cambodian children. A perfect opportunity to take stock of education in Cambodia, which is at the heart of our action.
Returning to our newsletter of the month (in French) regarding the evolution of the Cambodian school system, we will now focus on the difficulties that remain in this sector, and which therefore, inevitably affect the children we accompany daily at Taramana.
The challenges of education in Cambodia … and in Boeng Salang
Cambodia still has deep scars dating back to the massacres perpetrated on its soil. One result is the difficult financial situation in which some families live, especially those whose children come to Taramana. Making money is their main priority and therefore their childrens’ education comes in second and is even often relegated to the end of the list.
Even though public school is officially free of charge for all in Cambodia, there are in fact unofficial fees that are very costly for families, such as mandatory uniforms and other school materials, transportation costs, as well as the money that students must give to their teachers every day in public schools, in order to supplement very modest teacher salaries.
In other words, sending their child to school is not only a shortfall for parents, since the child no longer has time to work and to contribute to the family’s income, but schooling also represents an important expense that they can not take on. In addition, in parallel with classes at the public school which they attend for a half-day, Cambodian students usually take complementary courses in private schools that are not free and not accessible to all students.
For example, the consequence of these inequalities is the fact that children from families who are experiencing difficulties lag behind their peers who study in private schools. Another typical consequence is school dropout.
Some students drop out of school early on to work in factories or sometimes even directly on the street, and thus, they are able to help their families financially. Few children continue their studies up to grade 12, equivalent to the Terminale in France, and very few have the means to enroll in the university because fees are high. It is in such situations that Taramana intervenes, so that children can grow and flourish like others, despite the unfortunate living conditions of their respective families.
At Taramana, material support and a diverse educational program
Après une enquête sociale auprès de leurs familles, les enfants de Boeng Salang peuvent bénéficier du soutien de Taramana à une condition : être scolarisés à l’école publique et s’y rendre de manière assidue. Cependant, compte tenu des obstacles exposés plus haut, la plupart des familles n’ont pas les moyens de payer tous les frais associés à l’école. Following a social survey of their families, the children of Boeng Salang can benefit from the support of Taramana based on one condition: regular attendance at public school. However, given all the barriers outlined above, most families can not afford all the costs associated with their childrens’ schooling.
To remove suchs obstacles, Taramana participates directly in the financing of the schooling for children. Thus, each school year, students receive school supplies (pencil holders, notebooks, pens, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners …), which are sometimes accompanied by new uniforms. We also directly help the public school which the Center’s students attend, by giving supplies to the school and by complementing the teachers’ salaries.
As for the older students, Taramana assists in the support of their tuition fees at the university or for their professional training. This year, thanks to the help of Groupe Bouygues, 16 young people will be able to begin or continue their studies. Beyond the material assistance aspects, children who come to the center daily also benefit from support classes in Khmer, mathematics, English and for those who wish, in French and computers.
Other equally important knowledge or skills are also taught to children by our teaching team, assisted by volunteers and external stakeholders. Starting with self-confidence, open-mindedness, creativity, the rapport with others, communication, team spirit, etc.
All these notions are transmitted to them through sports, theater, creative workshops, cultural outings, artistic activities, awareness sessions, training and many other projects which take place each year.