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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - $6.5m French cash aids college

$6.5m French cash aids college

A Francophone educational organization last week officially relaunched the

Institute of Technology with a $6.5 million grant, promising to make it one of

the top colleges in South East Asia which will eventually be capable of

attracting foreign students.

A simple ceremony performed at the first

meeting of the new board of governors reverted the college's name back to

L'Institut de Technologie du Cambodge. after it was given a Russian name under

the Hun Sen regime.

 

Under the college's new leadership students will work from French-language

textbooks and the majority of lessons will be conducted in French. English

lessons will be on offer to the students as well as engineering courses.

In a French-language brochure issued by the new board of governors the

college is described as "an educational establishment for teaching superior

technical expertise and a dynamic technological center to contribute to the

development of Cambodia and the region.

"At the hour when Cambodia feels the urgent need of qualified technicians to

take charge of its reconstruction, the Institute of Technology is in the

forefront of superior teaching establishments in achieving two aims. Firstly,

training qualified technical workers who will be capable of taking

responsibility in their fields and second to become a regional technological

center capable of stimulating the development of the countries of Southeast

Asia, the Pacific and Cambodia in particular."

The Institute re-opened six months ago and now has 1075 students and last

week's meeting was to map its future course.

Of the $6.5 million grant from L'Agence Francophone pour l'Enseignement

Superieur et la Recherche, (AUPELF-UREF), $800,000 will go towards the

restoration of the college building. In addition the United Nations Development

Program has donated $500,000.

The Francophone aid group moved in following a plea by the Royal Cambodian

Government in September 1993 for help in restoring the college

The college offers three-year diploma courses for technicians and five year

diploma courses for engineers to students aged 18 and over. The reformed college

has five departments in civil engineering, rural engineering, chemical and

agricultural engineering, electronic engineering and industrial and mines

engineering

The Project Leader, Frenchman Bernard Cavaille, will be responsible for the

day-to-day running of the college. He said that 1,500 technical books had been

bought from France, Belgium and Canada.

The new board of Governors will

be chaired by a Cambodian, Ouy Vanthon and has a French director-general, Michel

Guillou. There are 16 members, seven Cambodians, three French, two Canadians, a

Belgian, a Tunisian, and a Lebanese.

Despite the new board's bold plans

for the future there remain quaint reminders of the institute's past during the

Soviet era.

Around the building all the signs are still in Russian, and

there is even a painting of the Kremlin and St Basil's cathedral. At the top of

the staircase is a fascinating panel of faded black and white photographs with

Russian text depicting the chaos after the Pol Pot regime and the gradual

recovery and reconstruction of the institute with Russian help.

"We'll be

taking all these relics down," said Guillou. "But of course the photographs will

become important archive material."

The institute was founded in 1963

with Russian aid. Until 1975 classes were taught in French by Soviet professors

in five main areas: construction, hydrology, electricity, mining and chemistry.

After 1979, courses were taught in Russian, by 80 Soviet professors, who trained

1,500 technicians and engineers. The political changes within the then-Soviet

Union in 1991 affected the institute, and staff were withdrawn. By 1993 the only

teachers were 10 Russian UN volunteers.

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