Save the Children International is swiftly expanding its temporary learning centres for students whose primary schools remained submerged to prevent them from permanently dropping out of school, its CEO said yesterday.
“In a flooding disaster of this magnitude” it is critical to get children “back in school as soon as possible”, Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International, said during her visit to flood-stricken villages in Kampong Cham province. “From our experience around the world, every day a child is not in school increases the risk they drop out permanently in a disaster like this. If we can quickly get them back in school-like settings, the chances of this happening are reduced,” she added.
The NGO has already opened 100 temporary learning centres in Kampong Cham and Prey Vang and plans to open more in Kampong Chhnang, she said. The centres are run in tandem with officials from provincial departments of education and employ teachers from schools still submerged or too damaged to reopen, she said, adding that her staff were working with government officials to help them duplicate the model in other flood-hit provinces.
Because families have had their livelihoods destroyed by the flooding, children are more likely to enter the workforce to help their families recover, Whitman explained. Temporary learning centres also provide protection for vulnerable children. “Because parents are scrambling to survive, they sometimes have to leave their children alone, which heightens their vulnerability to risk,” she said.
Haung Kimchean, deputy director of Kampong Cham’s education department, said 270 schools were affected by flooding and 101 had yet to reopen.
Srey Mara, administrative director of Prey Veng provincial education department, said 772 schools in the province had been affected by the floods, but most had already reopened.
Whitbread also said that although the global media was focused on the flooding in Thailand, her NGO was mounting its largest response in Cambodia because the need was greater here. It has identified Laos as its second priority country and Thailand as the third, she said. Its target for emergency relief in Kampong Cham and Prey Vang provinces was 20 percent of those affected by the flooding, or 90,000 people in total.
Her visit coincided with the release of new data from the National Committee for Disaster Management raising the estimate of the number of people directly affected by the flooding from 1.2 million to 1.5 million. The United Nations also announced yesterday that it would provide Cambodia with US$4 million for flood relief and rehabilitation. This was the first time Cambodia had been allotted funds from the UN’s central emergency response fund, it said. The funds are allocated “as part of a rapid response window for lifesaving humanitarian activities”, it said.