Provincial and local authorities are occupied with preparations to reopen schools with many institutions expected to begin lessons, at least for a trial period, next week before a full-scale reopening.
Following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recommendation on September 1 to gradually reopen schools, education departments around the country are looking into which schools can reopen.
Kampong Cham provincial Department of Education, Youth and Sport director Ly Meng San told The Post on September 6 that his department is working with all school principals, provincial referral hospitals, local authorities and relevant units to determine which schools can reopen.
“We have already received a report from Kampong Siem district and we are waiting for reports from other districts before submitting a compiled report to the provincial governor and permission to reopen from the education ministry. We will then make the announcement about which schools can reopen,” he said.
He said Kampong Cham has 535 schools, most of them will resume lessons on September 13.
In Preah Sihanouk province, only grades 9 and 12 are prioritised for reopening because students at these levels have to sit exams.
Provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun on September 6 held a meeting with education officials on the issue and will permit only five schools to reopen next week as a pilot exercise, each in five different districts.
“The education department director and local authorities have to apply preventative measures according to Standard Operating Procedures [SOP], such as testing students and teachers, to ensure that when our schools reopen there is no risk of transmitting the disease,” he said.
Chamroeun stressed that only fully vaccinated teachers and students are permitted to attend classes. For students who have not been vaccinated without health problems, they are still not allowed to attend class. Each school has to be equipped with sanitisers, take temperatures, and require students to wear masks.
In Preah Vihear province, education department director Cheng Lim Hoan said some teachers and students in his province had contracted the disease, but certain schools will have classes next week.
“I receive reports from all schools for evaluation and then send a report to the provincial governor for further evaluation before a final report is submitted to the education ministry next week,” he said.
According to Lim Hoan, only a small number of students in Preah Vihear can access virtual classes due to poor internet connections and cost.
“Schools located in high-risk areas, or those used as Covid-19 treatment or quarantine centres, are not allowed to reopen for now, and neither will schools located near these places,” he said, adding that there are more than 200 schools in the province.
Uk Chhayavy, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said the ministry should involve relevant stakeholders on this matter to help ensure that there is no transmission.
“I support schools reopening, but if there is no evaluation and permission from the Ministry of Health, I don’t support schools reopening,” she said.
She said if schools reopen and then close after a short period, it would only affect students’ spirits.
Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said on September 6 that for now, the ministry urges teaching and learning in clusters for both state and private schools in low-risk areas.