With temperatures reaching more than 40 degrees Celsius, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced on Thursday that it was amending school study hours to lessen the risk of illness for teachers and students, particularly those at kindergarten.

The ministry letter dated April 25 said morning classes will now run from 7am to 10:30am, with students leaving school at 11:00am. While in the afternoon, the study hours will be 1:30pm to 5pm. The afternoon times are unchanged.

When the hot season is over the hours will return to normal, the ministry said.

Spokesperson Ros Soveacha told The Post that the ministry had to carefully consider students’ health.

“The ministry realises that the heat is a factor affecting the educational performance of teachers and pupils alike,” he said.

Soveacha said the ministry continues to work with the National Committee for Disaster Management, which allows it to closely monitor the situation at all levels – including provincial education departments, district education offices and at schools themselves.

So far, Soveacha added, the ministry has not received any reports of major issues.

“This means that at all levels, we have been able to manage the problem and respond to the cases they have faced,” he said.

Lay Bora, the director of Kratie provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport, told The Post he had distributed the letter to public educational institutions in his province on Friday, but the changes had not been implemented last week.

A fire truck hoses down Chaktomuk Primary School in Phnom Penh on Saturday to reduce temperatures. Photo supplied

He said he will monitor how the letter is implemented this week. If temperatures drop, students will revert to normal school hours, but if the hot weather continues they must enforce the letter's requirements.

Bora said the half-hour reduction will cause students to lose study time, but it is important for their health.

“In Kratie town and some rural areas it has reached 40 degrees Celsius. We have seen temperatures of 41 degrees in some places. We're always prepared and, if problems arise, we will try to find solutions,” he said.

Veasna Voleak, the acting director of Kampong Chhnang's Chhnok Trou primary and secondary school, told The Post he had changed the school’s hours on Friday.

“I have already changed students' school hours after seeing the letter written by His Excellency [Education Minister] Hang Chuon Naron. We have changed from 7am to 10:30am and from 1:30pm to 5pm.”

He said temperatures at his school had reached 40 to 41 degrees Celsius and there are no trees to provide shade. As well as the extreme heat, he said, the school sometimes also lacked water.

Voleak said that when it is particularly hot, students are given permission to take off their shirts during lessons. He said he would like to provide pupils with small towels dipped in water to put on their heads, but the school simply did not have enough water.

To cope with the heat, the school suggests students splash their faces with water when there is enough available and asks them to bring bottled water from home to drink.

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training on Friday also called for workers to pay close attention to the Ministry of Health's information regarding preventing sickness caused by the sweltering heat.

It urged business owners to strictly implement the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training's 11 measures to avoid the risks posed by the heat wave.