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Schools need ‘a year to recover’

Schools need ‘a year to recover’

As education ministry officials prepared a report for Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday about the effects of the flooding on the country’s school system, Save the Children warned that it would take as long as one year for the country’s education system to recover.

“The situation is very urgent,”  Keo Sarath, the NGO’s education program manager, said.

“It will take at least a year to get the process and system functioning, but for the learning outcomes it will take a much longer time,” he said, adding: “This is the most important issue, but it’s generally invisible to the public”.

The floods would increase drop-out and absenteeism rates, and force students to repeat grades, Keo Sarath said.

Curriculum and teaching methodologies would need to be adjusted for students who had already lost two months of class time, he added.

Song Yeng, director of the Education Ministry’s construction department, said that 125 of the 1,369 schools flooded nationwide remained inundated and 80 “were so damaged that they are unsafe for students, while others were knocked down or swept away”.

He said the report on damage to school buildings would be delivered to the education minister and prime minister, but officials working on the report said it had yet to be completed.

The amount of teaching materials and school supplies destroyed had yet to be determined, they said.

The Asian Development Bank, which is in talks with the government to provide US$55 million in loans to repair flood-damaged infrastructure, also expressed concern yesterday about the effects the flooding was having on education.

Putu Kamayana, its country director, stressed “it is very important to quickly repair the flood-damaged schools so that children can get back to their studies”.

“They already face enormous challenges to obtain a good quality education as it is, especially in the rural areas.”

On Tuesday, Minister of Economy and Finance Keat Chhon said the government planned to spend about US$200 million to repair infrastructure damaged by the flooding, which affected 1.5 million people in 20 provinces.

“The urgent priority for the government is rehabilitation of infrastructure – mainly schools, hospitals and roads,” he said.