Ending poverty in Cambodia: Giving children a chance to return to school

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More than 600 bicycles have been distributed to poor students to help them to continue their study. More than 600 bicycles have been distributed to poor students to help them to continue their study.

Sitting with her mom and her younger sister under an old wooden house with a sad face, 15-year-old Keam Kim Eng handed over to me her school’s appreciation letter that was issued in recognition of her performance—she was one of the top students in class of grade 6. 

Kim Eng was told by her mother to dropout for the upcoming school year as going to grade 8 at Ta Ouk High School, located about 7 km from her village in Prasat Sambo District of Kampong Thom province, was too far. Her family is very poor and they cannot afford to buy a bicycle which is about $45, school uniforms, and school materials. They also want Kim Eng to help support the family.

“I really want to go to school,” Kim Eng said immediately when asked about her feelings to study again. 

With much persuasion and after offering some support, Kim Eng’s mother agreed to send her back to school. Kim Eng and her brother, who is studying in grade 10, will receive bicycles and some school materials from a charity group—Kâng Putti (bicycle for education)—that I’ve been leading.

Similar to Kim Eng, 15-year-old Neam Mey Neang, decided to dropout from her new school which is located 5 km from her village after she graduated from her primary school. On questioning why she decided to quit school, she broke out in tears.

Mey Neang lives with her aunt in Baksrey Village, Kol Commune, Prasat Sambo District of Kampong Thom Province. Her mother migrated to Thailand as a laborer doing basic jobs and her father disappeared when she was a baby. Mey Neang plans to work as a laborer at a rubber plantation or move to a town to look for a job to support her aunt who is also poor.

Now Mey Neang decided to go back to school after she was offered a bicycle and school materials. With this bicycle she will also take her younger cousin to school with her.

According to the Secondary Education and Improvement Project supported by the World Bank, over the past 20 years, Cambodia has expanded access to education. In primary school, net enrollment increased from 83.8% in 1992 to 98.4%in 2015. Lower secondary school enrollment also increased from 31.9% in 2009 to 51.5% in 2015 and the early childhood education enrollment rate from 5-year-old rose from 24.6% in 2004 to 64% in 2015. 

The project also advised that while these achievements are impressive and well-acknowledged, the education system will need to continue to expand equitable access to quality lower secondary education in order to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of providing basic education (grade 1 to 9) to all children. 

In 2015, over 60% of children at lower secondary school-age were out of school, and the dropout rate reached 21% between 2013 and 2014. In a 2016 school mapping exercise carried out by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and the World Bank, 70% of sampled schools experienced room shortages, overcrowded classrooms, teacher shortages, inadequate supplies for teachers, and under-qualified teachers.

Doung Vith, Principal of Ta Ouk High School, observed that dropout rate is high for the students who are in poor families and live far from school. For example, he said, in Beng village which is located about 7 km from his school, the dropout rate is more than 50%. Students dropout, mostly girls, because they do not have means of transport and their parents want them to work to support the families.  

Kim Eng and Mey Neang are among 250 poor students in Kampong Thom province who are going to get bicycles and school materials from a charity group on October 26 and 27, 2019. I have been doing fund raising to buy bicycles for poor students since 2017. More than 600 bicycles have been distributed to poor students to help them to continue their study. From year-to-year, more and more people support Kâng Putti. Together we can give a chance to poor students to return back to or to maintain their schooling. 


Saroeun Bou

Communications Officer

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