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Flooding forces school closures

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Missed classes and the risk of disease are the results of nearly two months of deluge that educators in Russey Keo district blame on poorly planned development projects

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

Children wade throught Russey Keo High School’s flooded campus on Tuesday.

HEAVY flooding in Russey Keo district that has forced the closure of six schools is the result of poorly planned development that has filled in a nearby drainage lake, education officials say, blaming City Hall for failing to consider the consequences of the projects.

"Development projects that lack appropriate drainage system planning have affected residents in these development zones," Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association (CITA), told the Post Monday.

"City Hall has to be responsible for this issue," he said, adding that more than 20 schools in Russey Keo district have suffered flooding and the six that were closed have resulted in thousands of students missing classes for more than two months.

Poor planning

"The flooding has affected the quality of education students are receiving because many of them will not be able to complete their studies this year," Rong Chhun said.

Chin Sopholla, a physical sciences teacher at Russey Keo High School, said the flooding began after developers started filling in a lake behind the school to make room for a new dry port, residential housing and an electricity plant.

"The municipality has developed this zone with no regard for the impact their actions would have on drainage systems in the district," he said.

"Our school has never flooded before."

Klaing Hout, the district's governor, said he authorised the opening of an overflow gate at the Russey Keo dam to remove excess water from the area.

"We have tried our best to solve this problem by opening the overflow gate, but the flooding has persisted," he said.

A health risk

Meanwhile, educators say schools hit by the floods, but which have remained open, pose a substantial health risk to students and teachers forced to attend them.

"We know that this will affect the mental and physical health of students because we are all forced to wallow in filthy water that is full of disease in order to teach our students," Se Socheat, a Khmer literature teacher at Russey Keo High School, told the Post.

Hout Samreth, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Department in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, said many schools, including some universities, had been flooded, and that classes for hundreds of students are temporarily suspended until the flood waters recede.

Many high school students have been placed in alternate schools not affected by the floods.

Sen Vuthy, 19, a grade 12 student at Chea Sim Cham Reoun Rath High School, said his old school was still under more than a metre of water.

"I really care about my coming semester exam, but studying has been difficult," he said.

Koy Seda, director of administration at the ministry's Phnom Penh Department, said five schools in the district were closed  and 20 others have remained partially flooded but are still open.

"Flooding this year has damaged the city's infrastructure and seriously impacted students, as well as local business owners," he said.

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