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Boozing elemetary school teachers drive away students


Angry parents remove their children from classrooms run by teachers who are more interested in rice wine than their lessons

Svay Rieng province

ANGRY parents in a Svay Rieng village are pulling their children out of school in response to what they say is rampant drunkenness among the teaching staff.

"How can my children learn from a drunk teacher?" complained Men Sophea, who said that after the P'Chum Ben holiday, she would move her children to the village's other primary school, Ar Nouvath, whose teachers are not known to share the same foibles.

Parents say teachers at Preah Sihanouk elementary school regularly miss class and show up to class drunk.

"My kids last year said their teacher would just teach a couple hours and then give an exam to keep them busy while they left early to drink rice wine," she said.

Ruos Ratana, a local butcher, said he had originally enrolled his daughter at Preah Sihanouk because of its strong reputation.

He also plans to move his daughter to a different primary school in the area.

Cut from a different cloth

 "In my day, it was unthinkable for me to even smoke in front of my students," said Kim Gnouy, a retired teacher who lives in the area.

He railed against what he described as a severe decline in the credentials and morality of the country's teachers today. "We are supposed to be educated. How can students respect us if we act so terribly? In the past, students respected their teachers so much they wouldn't dare even look them in the face."

Phe San, director of the maligned school, insisted that the drunken teachers had already been purged from the staff.

"This happened last year, especially in the Saturday evening classes. But I spoke to those teachers about it."

If teachers get drunk [students] will think their teacher

is a drunkard.

But the school's derelict instructors have caused the enrollment of its first graders to plummet from 1,026 last year to just some 600 this year - a drop Phe San attributed to the popularity of Ar Nouvath for teaching classes in both the morning and afternoon.

Pen Sarin, director of the province's primary school department, said the school's problems were limited but acknowledged the bad influence the teachers may have had on their pupils. 

"If teachers get drunk, it has an impact on students because they will think their teacher is a drunkard."

He attributed the teachers' drinking escapades to jealousy between staff members.

"Some were leaving early to drink because they were jealous since there were a lot of teachers who got the same salary but didn't teach, and just sat around in their office."

He said the teachers had not been dismissed because they are allowed three warnings. 

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