More than 100 private educational institutions have decided to request a meeting with the government to find ways to reopen schools as many of them are facing bankruptcy and on the brink of closing. The decision came during a virtual meeting among them on June 15.

Vanda Institute director Heng Vanda, who is also chairman of the Cambodian Higher Education Association, told The Post after the meeting that Covid-19 has been around since early 2020 and has severely affected schools for more than a year.

“The meeting to request the government’s help is to ensure that private education institutions can survive. They can no longer endure and decide to appeal for the reopening of schools because we do not know when the Covid-19 pandemic will end,” he said.

Vanda said Covid-19 infections are currently spread as a cluster which could be managed by authorities. Relying on online learning does not improve the situation because parents or guardians do not pay school fees and young students cannot study online. Without tuition fees, schools will go bankrupt or shut down.

Reopening schools will depend on following preventative health measures and guidelines from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. Some students will study in class while others online (Online Plus) to reduce the number of students in the classroom, he said.

“We will collect the results of this meeting and write a letter requesting to meet with relevant ministries to express our problems and concerns,” he said.

Pech Bolen, president of the Federation of Education Services in Cambodia who also attended the meeting, said most private education institutions have asked the education ministry to consider reopening schools and discuss measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

“What we want the most is to reopen schools, if possible, in August or September, but we also need to discuss any acceptable mechanisms, such as continuing education in class and online study at home, and follow the guidelines of the education and health ministries,” he said.

He said the other reason for the request is that Phnom Penh residents are nearly fully vaccinated against Covid-19, including teachers.

Education ministry spokesman Ros Sovacha said on June 16 that the ministry encourages private education institutions and stakeholders to talk and find solutions as everyone is affected by the crisis.

He added that schools, both private and public, will remain closed until further notice.

“Public and private institutions need to continue teaching and learning online according to the new normal of the education sector,” he said, adding that the ministry has already issued guidelines on distance and electronic teaching and learning for public, primary and secondary schools for the 2020-2021 academic year.