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Migrant children struggle at school post-Thailand trip

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Cambodian migrant workers with their children got on military vehicles upon their arrival from Thailand at a Cambodia-Thai international border gate in Poipet last year. Military Police

Migrant children struggle at school post-Thailand trip

Cambodian children who return from Thailand have difficulty to pursue their studies in Cambodia, according to a finding presented by PLAN International Cambodia during a sub-national forum on “Access to Education for Migrant Children”.

The forum was organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, partner organisations and a network of children and youth groups.

Chhim Phanna, a child protection specialist at Plan International Cambodia, told The Post on March 21 that the forum aimed to raise awareness among stakeholders on migration issues, especially hurdles to children’s education. The forum encourages more attention on services to help these children access a full education.

“The forum also promotes a pilot programme of Khmer language classes for children in Klong Yai district of Thailand’s Trat province from a school in Cham Yeam district of [Cambodia’s] Koh Kong province. This is achieved with technical support from the project technical team in collaboration with the ministry, Plan International and Cambodia Acts,” he said.

Phanna said the forum had just started with the coordination of Plan International Cambodia and child network at the provincial level, such as Siem Reap and Battambang, which are the project’s target provinces.

Plan International Cambodia and Plan International Thailand had jointly implemented a project to end exploitation through the strengthening of appropriate response services with a three-year budget supported by Sweden that ended in 2020.

In late 2020, the Foundation for Rural Youth – a local NGO in Thailand – conducted a study on the education of Cambodian children who migrated to Thailand with their parents and some were born there.

The study found that 1,322 Cambodian children were studying in Thailand’s Khlong Yai province bordering Cambodia’s Koh Kong, 500 of whom were in 4th to 9th grades at Thai public schools. But the number decreased when they get older as they had to return to Cambodia with their parents who had lost their jobs in Thailand.

“The problem is that when children return to Cambodia, it is difficult for them to continue their education at the same grade level because they cannot speak Khmer or they have a different curriculum. Therefore, the children go to a lower grade than in Thailand,” Phanna said.

Hour Bopha, Child and Youth Support Team Leader at the NGO Child Rights Coalition Cambodia, told The Post on March 23 that a network led by children and youth on March 20-21 organised an online meeting in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces to raise public awareness about the forum. The awareness raising targeted local authorities, caretakers and children on the importance of access to education for migrant children.

“On April 19, we will gather to make a statement about the migration of Cambodian children to Thailand. After making this statement, we will take suggestions and recommendations into discussion with stakeholders who have the right to work on the migrant children’s challenges,” she said.

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