An open letter to the government of Cambodia:
Education is the key to overcoming poverty in Cambodia. It is not because I am in
the field of education that I keep insisting that the government pay attention to
educational development and strength, but it is true and logical to say " education
is the foundation towards economic development" if we want to suppress poverty
in our poor nation.
I say to the government, our country is rich with natural resources, but your neglect
of education has just made us poor. Sending children to school and helping them to
have further education gives them light to escape from poverty.
I appreciate that some parents themselves are not well-educated, or some are even
illiterate, but all their children are literate and finish school. You [government
leaders] are too, you send your children to good schools overseas, considered better
education than in Cambodia, then you turn a blind eye to education quality improvement
or you are not optimistic that it can be improved.
I would like to convince you that when our people are mostly literate and well-educated,
it will be feasible to introduce new technology, new practical laws and especially
to invite their co-operation and participation in the development process. This means
we need human resources.
Productive human resources will play as a catalyst in the process. By productive
human resources I refer to our Khmer people with creative ideas, national and professional
conscience. You should think of doing what you say and say what you really mean.
Moreover, to encourage our Khmer people to have critical thinking is vitally important,
so that they will produce mutual trust and understanding.
Please don't be narrow-minded and think that when your people are better educated
they will rob your power. Cambodia is not solely yours or your family.
Many a time our poor people have been cheated by media, politicians and their employers
for the lack of critical thinking, and education. Our land has been robbed by neighboring
countries, and [that this issue] remains unresolved is also because of the shortage
of well-educated and nation-conscious people. I think you [government leaders] also
experienced this. It is time for you now to open your eyes and minds to see the world
and learn to apply [remedies] in our situations. Do not just sit and look at developed
countries and beg them, do something meaningful for your people, and your children.
Many of you may have come abroad and have felt about how other countries treat us
and maybe you even know how they think of our nation. You know the stereotype of
Cambodia: Killing Fields, one of the poorest countries in the world, with insecurity
and civil war, etc. It is time to learn to sympathize each other and love each other
and find ways to help each other.
War makes us poor. This may be right. Don't you know that you make yourself poorer
if you don't know you are poor and don't act on it. Don't just say that we are poor
because we don't have money: our poverty is of many other things, such as knowlege
of critical thinking and how to get rid of poorness.
We must heal and bring tenderness and peace and give ourselves the chance to fight
for a better future for Cambodia and ourselves and for our future generations, through
education to modernize our nation. We have suffered too much.
I have heard that what our people really want now is to beg you not to make war and
give them the chance to better their living conditions. They are optimistic that
their lives will gradually improve through peace and political stability. Their message
to you is to get rid of armed conflicts and help them with how to plant to have better
crops and find markets for them.
I sincerely believe that if you understand your people (if you say you serve them
and our nation), their poverty will drop piece by piece.
Teach your people how to catch fish rather than keep giving them fish. This means
you help us and we shall participate in your campaign to overcome poverty.
We don't want to be poor, we don't curse you for being rich. Don't blame us, you
make us poor of everything. I think you know, but this is just to wake you up and
start prioritizing it.
- Dr Sam Sideth, Graduate School of Education, Hiroshima University, Japan