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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - School out on a limb

School out on a limb

L egs, arms, teeth and eyes are some of the body parts being reproduced at a new

school aiming to make Cambodia self-sufficient in rehabilitation

care.

The National School of Prosthetics and Orthotics opened at the

Calmette Hospital on Jan. 19. Built and designed by the Cambodia Trust (CT). It

will be managed jointly with the American Friends Services Committee

(AFSC).

A prosthesis, also known as a prosthetic device, is a mechanism

that replaces a part of the body while an orthosis or orthotic device is one

that supports a weak part of the body or helps make it straight.

Starting

with six students, the school is aiming to make Cambodia self-reliant in

professionally qualified staff from 1998 onwards.

"The school is for

Cambodia to be independent," said Hywel Griffiths, CT's special representative.

"It's not good to depend on expatriates. Cambodia has the highest percentage

population of amputees in the world, but there are no Cambodians qualified as

prosthetists."

CT and AFSC are funding the project initially but

Griffiths hopes in the future the Cambodian Government will have the money to do

the work by itself.

The students, who have good academic backgrounds and

experience in rehabilitation, will be educated in scientific skills equal to

recognized international standards.

Intake levels are set to rise to 12

a year and the eventual aim is to have the best graduates returning to the

school as teachers, replacing expatriate staff.

Lasting three years, the

course involves two years of school and one year working in the field alongside

a school-approved NGO prosthetist/orthotist.

"We don't need very large

numbers but (we need) good people," said Carson Harte, the school's director.

"In a few years' time when I leave, my students will replace me."

Harte

is joined by a deputy director, Anne Herikson. Both are graduates of the

prosthetic and orthotic course at Strathclyde University in Scotland.

As

student numbers increase it is expected staff levels will be adjusted

accordingly. Specialist subject lecturers will be bought in from Russei Keo

College and the School of Physiotherapy in Phnom Penh.

A press release

from the prosthetics school said the course represented a major change in

emphasis in the rehabilitation of disabled people in Cambodia and that its

graduates will become the basis of a National Rehabilitation Service aiming to

provide comprehensive care with recognized standards.

For the first time

NGOs will be able to plan the replacement of expatriate professional staff with

Cambodian nationals, hence withdrawing from Cambodia, said the

release.

Together with the newly built school, the Cambodia Trust has

already set up two centers in Cambodia to provide a limb fitting service for

amputees. The first one was opened by King Sihanouk at the Calmette Hospital in

Feb. 1992 and the second opened fifteen months later in Kompong Som. So far, the

Trust has treated 3,000 people.

Most of the patients are men but

following the introduction of outreach programs earlier in 1993, the number of

women and children has been growing. The outreach programs involve sending CT

staff to rural villages in search of women and child amputees and arranging for

them to have treatment.

Similar services have also been provided by AFSC,

a veteran NGO in Cambodia which arrived in 1979 and has run a variety of

programs. The organization's operation in the country began with emergency

relief and it first became involved with amputees in 1982 when it built a

prosthetics workshop and provided technical training.

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