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.
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
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
Tarush Lather - Australian citizen resident in Phnom