Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Teachers still taking cash

Teachers still taking cash

Teachers still taking cash

In a continuation of their efforts to increase their small salaries, Cambodia's teachers

are still demanding daily cash payments from their students for extra-curricular

classes.

Students who wish to study further after the end of official class time - in order

to improve their grades and help pass their exams - can take extra lessons, but need

to pay several hundred riel for the privilege. That, said the government, is in contravention

of its guidelines.

Nine-year-old Suy Seav Vey, a student at one of the capital's primary schools, said

that he pays his teacher around 800 riel per day. School fees make up 200 riel, 100

riel is for hygiene, while the remaining 500 riel was a fee for the extra class.

"It doesn't matter too much if I don't pay my teacher," said Vey, "but

if I don't then my teacher will not pay attention to me in the class. If I want to

get good grades and pass my examinations, I have to attend these extra classes."

The amounts may seem tiny, but in a country where education standards are low and

poverty is widespread, the obvious concern is that extra fees discriminate against

the poor and condemn them to the poverty trap.

With education a major plank of the government and donor efforts to reduce poverty,

these indirect costs discourage poor families from sending children to school.

Po Sothy, a 33-year-old teacher who works at Toul Tumpong Primary School in the capital,

acknowledged that all teachers in Phnom Penh take money from their students, but

denied they forced students to pay. He said that those students who could not afford

to pay were not compelled to do so and were still welcome to come to school. He said

teachers made only 90,000 riel ($23) a month.

"If we had a salary of $100 a month, we would not need to get an extra 200 riel

from our students," said Sothy. "We know it is not good for teachers to

do that, but we have no choice."

That attitude seems to vary. Eight-year-old Ung Dara said that no cash would mean

no learning.

"I pay 10,000 riel a month to my teacher," said Dara. "My teacher

warned me that if I did not pay, then I would not be allowed to come to school."

Sothy said that charging unofficial fees was a common problem, but insisted that

parents had never complained about the charges.

"We have been doing this for four years now," he said. "It is not

government policy, but we do not force poor students to pay."

All students ranging from grade 1 have to pay 200 riel to their own teacher as an

unofficial fee to sit in the classroom.

An official at Unicef said that the meager amounts teachers demanded would hardly

make them rich.

"I think that unofficial fees were a common problem both in the past and today

because their salaries are small," said the official, speaking anonymously.

"This additional income would only be enough to pay for food, electricity or

water."

The official said that Unicef, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Youth

and Sport, was committed to expanding equitable access to basic education, and to

improve the quality of education and strengthen efficiency of education resources.

The organization's executive board recently approved a commitment from its general

resources budget of some $15 million between 2001 and 2005 to support the operational

plan.

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