Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Program eyes NGO aspirants

Program eyes NGO aspirants

Royal University of Phnom Penh social worker graduate Chhum Ratha
Royal University of Phnom Penh social worker graduate Chhum Ratha stands in front of the capital’s Calmette Hospital yesterday afternoon. Pha Lina

Program eyes NGO aspirants

The Royal University of Phnom Penh plans to make its social work degree available to everyone next year, as young, locally trained graduates look to take the reins from foreign aid workers.

Seven years after beginning via a scholarship program, the four-year degree is set to transition to a “freebase” course when it resumes in 2015, meaning successful applicants will pay for their place.

RUPP Department of Social Work Faculty member Ung Kimkanika said the move would help the course financially, but also open access to the degree to Cambodia’s huge pool of informally trained para-social workers who work with NGOs.

“Because it’s a scholarship program, we have only been able to recruit students from high school,” Kimkanika said.

“But there is a lot of interest, especially from those people who are working for NGOs. These are people with interesting experience that we can’t ignore.”

Initiated in 2008, the course was developed specifically to train Cambodian social workers to take charge of a sector traditionally coordinated by foreign aid workers and staffed by Cambodians often with little formal training.

As Cambodia becomes more stable, this is something 2014 graduate Chhum Ratha wants to see change.

“In Cambodia, mostly people working in NGOs are para-social workers and their managers are foreigners,” Ratha said.

“I would like us to jump out of that box. It doesn’t mean discriminating against foreign workers, but we are the owners of these problems and we would like to solve them.”

Like 80 per cent of the 64 graduates produced so far, Ratha, 22, has transitioned from the course into the field, working as a social worker at Calmette Hospital.

“It’s time for Cambodians to work by themselves, independently,” he said.

According to a recent report by Oxfam, 450 of Cambodia’s 3,492 registered NGOs are international, with NGOs in total spending $600 million to $700 million annually.

Although acknowledging international NGOs still have an important role to play, the report urged foreign players to rethink their roles and consider exit strategies in light of the country’s progress.

“The young generation is aware of their responsibility to change society,” 21-year-old Mao Monyka, who graduated in 2014 and now works with disabled children through Aide et Action, said. “But we need to change the perception of social work. It is not charity; charity is based on sympathy while social work is based on empathy.”

“It is about working to empower people, helping them to understand what they need and how they can get it.”

After RUPP began its course in 2008, another social worker degree was introduced by the National Institute of Social Affairs in 2012. RUPP has also introduced a masters degree in social work.

Kimkanika said the course is still being refined ahead of the transition next year and the department plans to keep the intake level at about 25-30 students to maintain quality and manageability.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • Sor Chandeth defends his criticism of Hun Sen

    Former senator Sor Chandeth has defended his choice of words when criticising Hun Sen, saying he was merely speaking metaphorically to attack the Prime Minister’s political life, not his actual person, as the latter seeks damages. [img] Chandeth spoke to The Post on Thursday,

  • South Korea’s Moon arrives in Kingdom for state visit

    South Korean president Moon Jae-in and his wife arrived in Phnom Penh on Thursday at the start of a three-day state visit to Cambodia to strengthen ties and further the friendship between the two countries. After arriving at the Phnom Penh International Airport in the

  • Youths band together to clean ‘filthy’ Boeung Trabek canal

    Inspired by their affection for the environment, a desire to have a clean and beautiful city, and wanting to send a message to people to stop littering, a group of some two dozen volunteer youths have taken to picking up trash day and night from