Our next IWitness group is from IKEA Taiwan. They’re traveling to Cambodia to visit some incredible projects funded through the Soft Toys for Education campaign. Mr. Out Sarang, who coordinates Save the Children’s project fighting discrimination and violence in schools, is here to explain some of the challenges Cambodian children have to overcome, and how the team at Save the Children is working to address them.
Corporal punishment, discrimination, bullying and a lack of safe, child-friendly facilities mean children feel afraid of going to school. Often, children’s basic rights are not respected. According to a 2011-2012 school year study of children in 147 schools across six provinces, over 50% of children reported being hit by their teachers. Around 50% of children were also the recipients of coarse language and ear-twisting from their teachers, and bullying from their peers. Children from ethnic minorities are most frequently targeted by these punishments, illustrating the level of discrimination in the school environment.
Factors such as lack of resources, poor school infrastructure and inadequate training for school teachers lead to the exclusion of thousands of marginalised children, including children with disabilities, children from ethnic minorities and children from the poorest families. Marginalised groups face obstacles accessing all services, including a basic quality education.
To address these challenges, Save the Children in Cambodia works with nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and government partners from the education sector.
The project reducing corporal punishment, discrimination and bullying. It improves teaching methods by training teachers in positive discipline. It also supports schools to develop ‘positive discipline child promoters’. These students teach others about child rights and violence-free schools, develop codes of conduct for students and teachers, provide regular feedback to teachers on corporal punishment and discrimination, and participate in school governance.
To promote inclusive education, particularly for the most marginalised children, the project provides scholarships for girls, highly vulnerable and disadvantaged children, and children from ethnic minorities We run training for parents and teachers so they know how to provide special care and support to their children with disabilities. And we give financial and technical support so schools can build access ramps, school furniture, toilets, wells, and other things children with disabilities need.
Within the first 18 months, the project has supported 5,911 (2,235 girls) of the most marginalised children in Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Siem Reap, Preah Vihear and Koh Kong provinces.
Save the Children in Cambodia is privileged to be able to undertake an initiative that improves the quality of life for so many children. It’s a noble task—one we hope to achieve step-by-step every day. None of it, however, would be possible without the generous support of the IKEA Foundation.