The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport is investigating the management committee of a primary school – Neak Oknha Moha Pheakdey Hun Neang Yamabiko – for asking for money from students at the school to support the costs of water and electricity. This investigation began after a letter asking for support from parents of grade 1 students leaked.

“We, the primary school management committee, inform all parents that with the school currently spending a lot on water, electricy and garbage disposal bills, the commitee and the school principal are asking each of you to give 20,000 riel for the 2021-2022 academic year,” said a July 14 letter obtaine by The Post on July 17.

Municipal education department director Hem Sinareth said on July 17 that he had detailed officials to investigate the case. The ministry had advised all schools that they could raise funds from donors to help develop their facilities, but they must follow the mechanisms laid out by the ministry.

The first step was to establish a committee made up of school authorities and representatives of parents. A meeting would be held and a precise plan of expenses needed to be developed.

Parents would then contribute money on a voluntary basis, according to their ability.

“I am working on this case to determine if the school followed the ministry’s guidelines or if the letter was issued unilaterally without any meeting. Some school principals do not understand legal matters, which can lead to allegations of poor performance. I will uncover the truth in this instance,” he said.

He added that school budgets remained limited when it came to paying their bills. In addition, he noted that some schools had installed more fans and thus increased their expenses.

“Procedurally, we advise school management to collect money strictly on a voluntary basis. They cannot force parents to pay,” he said.

“If the school is found to have taken actions outside of ministerial guidelines, we will take disciplinary action – such as a formal written reprimand,” Sinareth continued.

He said that based on a preliminary report, the school’s management committee followed the ministry’s instructions. The committee had developed the school by filling the school campus with soil, building paths, laying concrete and cobble stones, making gardens, repairing buildings and installing lights and fans.

The report said that with the lack of money to pay the water, electricity and garbage bills and carry out repairs, the committee had held a public forum with students’ parents on July 14 and reached a consensus. Parents who were able to should each contribute 20,000 riel on a voluntary basis.

Nouch Sarin, principal of the primary school, could not be reached for comment.

Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said that school management and teachers continued to play an important role in enhancing the quality of learning and teaching before and during Covid-19, and must maintain a high standard of professional ethics.

“If this case is a breach of that, then management must take steps to resolve it,” he added.