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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Teaching kids corruption

Teaching kids corruption

I was interested to read the article titled "International funds for education"

(PPPost, May 7, 2004). While it is certainly a very important development

priority I feel that the projects as described are not addressing the real issue

of promoting and expanding the education sector in Cambodia.

Recently on

a short holiday in Sihanoukville I spent quite some time talking to my

guesthouse owners and friends of theirs who dropped by. The conversation turned

to schooling for their children and the group told me that children had to pay

400 riel a day (300 riel if the family is very poor) to the teacher to enter the

classroom and have tuition. They went on to tell me that they couldn't really

blame the teacher because they are paid very poorly ($22 to $25 a month) and

quite often only receive part of their salary and some months no pay at

all.

Teachers have a very important role in formulating morals and

setting standards for young children. After the children's parents, teachers

probably have the next most important influence in this regard. So at a very

young age these children are learning the method and practice of corruption and

how to make it work in Cambodian society. The potential for this type of

"education" is for Cambodia to lose yet another generation to corrupt practices

in government, business and education.

Laying the foundation for a

corruption-free society in Cambodia in the future needs to be embraced by aid

agencies as an important development priority. One way this can be achieved is

by promoting and actively teaching young students not to get involved. Teachers

can only do this if they are properly paid and in secure jobs. The best way to

ensure this would be for an aid agency to take over the budget responsibilities

for paying teachers, particularly in the provinces. However, it is highly

unlikely that the Cambodian government (if one is ever formed) would hand over

that responsibility because the people who are milking the teachers' wages now

would not give up that lucrative sideline.

The goal of making sure that

teachers are paid a living wage must somehow be realized. The challenge is there

for some agency to wade into this sector and tackle this

problem.

Tarush Lather - Australian citizen resident in Phnom

Penh

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