Ros Soveacha, 33, was the first Cambodian to work for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an organisation within the United Nations that promotes the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technology. He was based in Austria, but decided to come back to Cambodia for another challenge
When an American friend in Cambodia told Soveacha about UNESCO’s Capacity Development for Education for All (CapEFA) program in Cambodia, Soveacha decided to return home to help improving the quality of education in his homeland.
Soveacha has cherished education since he was young, which lead him to pursue a Ph.D in educational science in the United States. His qualifications resulted in UNESCO naming him program coordinator of the CapEFA program. He is responsible for cooperating with the Department of Non-Formal Education of the Ministry of Education to strengthen education in Cambodia.
In order to promote education and help improve Cambodia’s literacy, Soveach works directly with the department to help arrange support for the department’s efforts.
Having worked different jobs for the IAEA in Austria and UNESCO in Cambodia, Soveacha said he has learned that every workplace has its own advantages and disadvantages. He said that when he first started working with the Ministry of Education, he had difficulties understanding the officials’ mindsets.
“It’s hard to work with the department because of their capacity. Their knowledge is not so good, and sometimes they turn it to politics,” he stated.
To solve the problems, he said that he learns from past mistakes and searches for good solutions by using his knowledge to help the officials.
“I like to talk face-to-face with an open mind. I will critique them when I found that they are wrong, but I admire them when I see their achievements.”
He said he is of the opinion that the quality of education in the next 10 or 15 years will be better if the government invests more. He said the budget for education is currently just 2.9 per cent of GDP.
“It is necessary that the political agenda improves the quality of education, not only non-formal education but also general education,” said Soveacha. “If you want to develop a country, you need to develop technology and science.
“Cambodia will not develop smoothly if it depends on only the foreign countries or partners’ sponsorship, and UNESCO is facing a financial crisis that is lead by the impact of the world financial crisis.”
In the future, Soveacha plans to found a university and science institute to help Cambodian students learn and develop theories.
To youth, he advised: “English is a bridge to success. You should try to study hard. Self-learning is a better way to improve your knowledge—do not depend 100 per cent on your school and teachers. Your life is your decision making and working.”