The Ministry of Education has launched a national policy to protect primary and secondary school students against any form of violence and safeguard their welfare. The move involves both private and public schools.
The seven-page policy on child protection in schools, adopted in September 2016 and signed by Education Minister Hang Choun Naron, was launched on Friday.
The policy, formulated by the ministry, ChildFund Cambodia and UNICEF, will help to create a mechanism to achieve the objective.
Apart from protecting students from violence, policy priorities include forming a committee at the school level to ensure student safety and raise awareness on child protection among education professionals, communities and relevant stakeholders.
In addition, the policy will help to develop new laws and check and review existing laws and policies.
Chan Sophea, the ministry’s Primary Education Department director, said the policy will be implemented next year, with the first step to give directions at the sub-national level and request budget proposals for next year.
“We will check the legal procedures against existing ones and ascertain what needs to be adopted, and what mechanisms we need at national and sub-national levels. We will introduce prevention [methods] – for example, what steps teachers and school committees need to take when there is a case of abuse,” he said.
He said violence against children includes physical, mental and sexual. For example, hitting, pinching or yelling at students in the classroom or even just ignoring them.
Sophea said before the policy was launched, a pilot project was held with the cooperation of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
He said under the project, workshops on the prevention of violence were carried out for teachers in Battambang, Kampot and Prey Veng provinces.
“There are few cases of sexual abuse in schools, but physical and mental violence is still prevalent. It is hard when we try to change the attitude of teachers as it is passed down from generations,” he said.
ChildFund Cambodia was involved in contributing technical content for the policy and providing financial support for printing books.
ChildFund executive director Kong Mardy said: “The good cooperation between civil society and the government will help create a safe learning environment for Cambodian children.”
Ty Sovannary, a child rights specialist with Plan International Cambodia, said the organisation has trained teachers’ committees in 124 primary schools in Siem Reap and Tbong Khmom provinces between 2014 and 2016.
“We have been raising awareness among teachers and children about children’s rights. We know that violence against children still exists in schools,” he said