Oknha Dr Mengly J Quach, the founder, chairman and CEO of MJQ Education, the parent company of the Aii Language Center (Aii) and the American Intercon School (AIS), has offered his thanks to students, parents and teachers as the Kingdom tackles the global Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the veteran educator also issued a note of warning as educational institutions struggle with the effects of the school lockdown, sending a strong signal that the Kingdom’s education sector is at a critical juncture.
“Most people have come together and joined hands in this difficult time. I would like to thank my staff for their dedication and their time. They keep working hard, and I truly appreciate their understanding.
“I would also like to thank parents and students. I truly appreciate their understanding and how they have stepped up in these difficult times,” he said.
With the education sector increasingly feeling the strain, Quach made a heartfelt plea for further understanding and assistance. In the midst of an unprecedented crisis buffeting the global economy, he called on the Kingdom’s landlords and parents to see the “bigger picture”.
“For those who have not joined hands yet to tackle the situation together, I appeal to them to look at the bigger picture, and what will be the impact if there are no schools for our children. There is going to be a huge impact on our children and the economy unless people are aware of the broader situation.
“It took 30 years for the Cambodian education system to get to where it is today; if it was to collapse, it could not rebound quickly. I estimate 80 per cent of the Kingdom’s private schools could close if this situation continues for another two months.
“Most schools have to lease their buildings, and they rely on more than just tuition fees to keep running. If landlords ignore the seriousness of the situation and refuse to help regarding rent, and parents demand discounts or even do not pay, schools are not going to survive for long,” he cautioned.
The Cambodian-American educationist, medical doctor, entrepreneur and philanthropist said the entire system would be overwhelmed should his prediction be borne out.
“What would happen to the students if all these private schools closed? In past situations when even one school folded, there was a such a struggle – the government, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, higher education organisations, school associations, we all struggled to solve the situation.
“Now imagine if the majority of private schools closed, how could the government be able to take over all the students affected? I think this would be a very difficult time for the government, the parents and the private sector.
“It is so difficult when the government and institutions ask for assistance, but some people refuse to help. It is a difficult time for us and other small businesses, and this is made worse when some people are short-sighted and fail to see the bigger picture,” he said.
Quach warned that such a crisis in the education sector would have serious repercussions on the Kingdom’s economy as a whole.
“There would be a drastic domino effect across the economy. What would happen to the huge number of staff members who would lose their jobs, not to mention the students unable to complete their studies?” he said.
To counter this, he called for a concerted effort from all stakeholders to ensure the private education sector weathers the storm.
“It is essential that landlords and parents understand the seriousness of the situation and act accordingly. It would be nice if the government intervened and perhaps proposed a certain amount of money as a buffer, to lend to these institutions to ensure these schools survive,” Quach said.
The founder of Aii and AIS, whose institutions have grown to teach some 14,500 students since being founded in 2005, said passion was the secret to the success of his schools.
“You do not work in education to make money – you have to have passion. It is all about passion, how you love this field; how you are going to enrich the children; how you want to help Cambodians improve themselves.
“It is very sad that people sometimes don’t understand the passion that we put into education,” he said.