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Child protection in schools under review

A child walks through the schoolyard at Phnom Penh's Sothearos School earlier this year. A new Ministry of Education initiative aims to protect children from abuse in school.
A child walks through the schoolyard at Phnom Penh's Sothearos School earlier this year. A new Ministry of Education initiative aims to protect children from abuse in school. Vireak Mai

Child protection in schools under review

The Ministry of Education is working with NGOs to draft a policy document to protect schoolchildren from abuse at the hands of educators and fellow students, an NGO specialist told the Post yesterday.

More than 40 government and non-government representatives gathered in the capital on Friday to discuss the policy, which NGO Plan International Cambodia, drafter of the document, says may be finished “early next year”.

The policy will seek to improve teacher training, educate students on their rights and improve reporting mechanisms in schools.

“Violence in schools [is a] problem, according to earlier studies,” said Sovannary Ty, Plan International’s country child rights specialist.

A 2013 survey by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and UNICEF found that Cambodia’s children face routine abuse in their communities and schools, which triggered the government to create child-safety commitments for various ministries.

The Education Ministry is is currently collaborating with Plan International, the Child Rights Foundation and the Cambodia National Council for Children on the issue.

The draft policy discussed on Friday “will serve as an indispensable resource for teachers and schools to not only keep children safe, but also promote quality education”, Leang Seng Hak, the deputy director of the ministry’s teacher training department, said in a statement.

Many children, especially boys, experience bullying, either at the hands of peers or older students. However, most of the abuse reported in the study came from teachers, despite a ban on corporal punishment.

Punishments included beatings with a belt, ruler or hand, and twisted skin. Non-contact punishments included being forced to stand on one foot or perform chores. Some teachers charged students money as a punishment or took money and refused to teach.

In October, the Post reported that a teacher in Svay Rieng province had ordered an 11-year-old female student to be undressed by her classmates as punishment for reading errors.

About 62.2 per cent of female and 43.8 per cent of male students reported abuse from male teachers; while 26.8 per cent of female students and 19.5 per cent of males reported abuse from female teachers.

Sexual abuse was also high. According to the study, school was the location of the first incident of sexual abuse for 17.2 per cent of females and 12.9 per cent of males aged 18 to 24, and 26.3 per cent of females and 10.4 per cent males aged 13 to 17.

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