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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Positive early results for ‘back to school’ push

Positive early results for ‘back to school’ push

Positive early results for ‘back to school’ push

Some 14,000 school drop-outs have returned to class under a $19 million scheme launched last year by a coalition of education groups, the organisations said yesterday.

Out-of-school kids include children from poor and remote communities, ethnic minorities, kids over-age for their grade level, street children and those with disabilities.

Of the children enrolled by the program in the first year, 6,732 are girls and 7,851 are boys.The number of enrollments in the first year missed the consortium’s target of 21,190 children.

Aide et Action (AEA), the lead NGO in the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children, said that the program hopes to return 57,253 out of schoolchildren to class by November 2017.

The actual number of out-of-school children in Cambodia is higher, potentially over 200,000, according to Lam Socheat, head of the program at AEA.

“Sending a kid to school is not easy and it’s more difficult to prevent a kid from giving up study,” said AEA country coordinator Vorn Samphors.

The consortium also completed a baseline study of the conditions that cause kids to stop attending school. Major reasons included children’s illness, disability, lack of motivation and the need to help their families earn an income.
Preah Vihear has the highest prevalence of out-of-school children, with one in three households having children who had dropped out or didn’t attend, according to the survey. Kampot had the lowest prevalence, with one in seven families having children out of school.

Disability or illness were top reasons for lack of attendance, according to John Nicewinter, an analyst with consulting company Angkor Research, which did the study for the consortium. Most disabilities are cognitive or communicative, requiring special training for educators to overcome, he said.

Illnesses can be linked to hygiene at home and at school, he added. More than half the households that contained out-of-school children lacked toilets, while many schools lacked proper sanitation as well.

“Lots of schools have no clean water for washing or drinking,” he said. “There is also a lack of sex-segregated bathrooms.”

The second major reason for not attending was a lack of motivation. This is a broad category that includes difficulty getting to school, insufficient supplies or clothing, dislike of school facilities or teaching methods and fears of bullying.
Some populations, such as street children, cannot attend school because they had to help their families earn an income.

“The most important thing to take away from this is the diversity of needs among children of different groups,” Nicewinter said. “We found significant differences why they’re out of school and ways to get them back into school.”

Socheat outlined several methods that the consortium is using to reconnect kids with education, including creating scholarships, reaching out to at-risk families, and improving the skills of teachers to handle special needs children.

Lav Chhiv Eav, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, said it was “a concern for the government and this primary research shows us and other stakeholders how to join to solve the problems”.

Igor Kossov