Three international NGOs have collaborated to launch a project dubbed Ending Violence Against Children in and around Schools in Cambodia’ (ENDVAC) on January 29 in support of 13,000 children in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces.

ENDVAC is jointly implemented by Save the Children, World Vision and Plan International Cambodia, using evidence-based tools and approaches, according to a press statement.

Save the Children will lead overall implementation and national coordination. World Vision will handle project operations in Preah Vihear while Plan International will operate in Siem Reap.

The project stems from a study conducted in 2013 which found that 52.7 per cent of women and 54.2 per cent of men aged 18-24 reported at least one experience of physical violence prior to the age of 18. Violence in schools often occurred between children of the same age, but teachers were the most common perpetrators of violence against children outside their homes.

Country director for Save the Children Elizabeth Pearce said violence against children, especially gender-based violence and bullying, contributes significantly to school dropouts among children with disabilities.

She noted that children face different vulnerabilities based on their gender. Girls are more likely to experience psychological bullying, cyber-bullying, sexual violence and harassment, while boys are more likely to experience physical violence and corporal punishment.

Pearce said the work by the three NGOs will reinforce the Cambodian Child Protection Policy Framework through development, endorsement and dissemination of the Implementation Guidelines for Child Protection in Schools Policy (IGCPSP).

“We will also support the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in the piloting of the IGCPSP in target primary schools by establishing a functioning school-based child protection mechanism and ensuring its coordination with community-based child protection mechanisms,” she said.

Gwynneth Wong, country director for Plan International Cambodia, said the project will also support target schools in developing systems to monitor data related to violence against children and enforcing codes of conduct.

“These systems will help schools track violence against children and enable timely responses to prevent children from dropping out of school,” Wong explained.

Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha welcomed all contributions which positively promote the quality of education.

He said the prevention of violence against children at schools is a task of school committees in collaboration with each provincial education department. Disciplinary measures will be taken against those who commit non-educational activities at schools.

“Moreover, at every education institution, there is a team of children’s counsellors. These teams are tasked with promoting educational activities for children. They are also tasked with monitoring and reporting occurrences of any irregularities at the institutions,” he said.