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Poor education hurts girls


Reports says scanty education damages prospects and bleeds the economy

Chef Chon graduated from the Salai Bai School for Hospitality and Restaurant management in Siem Reap. Photo Supplied

FAILURE to keep girls in school past primary education is taking a massive toll on Cambodia’s economy and leaving young women vulnerable to exploitation, a new report warns.

Women deprived of proper schooling are limited to high-risk, unskilled, low-paying jobs that are slowing Cambodia’s emergence from the financial crisis, the report says, adding that they are also more likely to lose their jobs, enter the sex trade and die at a young age.

Released by child-focused development NGO Plan International on Wednesday, the report highlights the plight of several Cambodian girls forced to leave school prematurely. Rarn, a 14-year-old from Dambae district in Kampong Cham province, quit school at about age 9.

“If my parents had money, I would go to study until I finished all the grades,” she said.

“I want to be a tailor. My parents are very poor and cannot afford books, clothing or a bicycle for me. Also, no one can help them with farming and housework.”

Though the number of girls enrolling in primary school is high, that rate drops sharply at secondary schools. According to the Asia Development Bank, roughly 1.3 million girls attended primary school in 2007-2008. About 55,000 girls completed grade nine, and only 22,000 completed high school.

The consequences are serious, warned Thida Kus of NGO Silaka. “You notice how these girls are dropping out just after elementary school, just as they’re beginning puberty,” she said. “This means they suddenly become more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.... Many of them have low-income jobs in the informal sector, where they are more susceptible to trafficking, sexual violence and contracting HIV.”

A 1 percentage point rise in girls attending secondary school can increase a country’s annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percent, the report says.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KHOUTH SOPHAK CHAKRYA

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