Making schools in Cambodia safe for all children

During the next few days, we’re featuring blog posts by co-workers from the UK and Ireland as they visit Save the Children projects in Cambodia. Want to know more about what education is like in Cambodia? Here’s a special guest post by Sakina Sakerwalla from Save the Children Cambodia.

Children helping classmates who have learning difficulties - by Save the Children Cambodia
Children helping classmates who have learning difficulties – by Save the Children Cambodia

The education system in Cambodia has slowly been rebuilt after having been totally destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. At least 1.5 million people were killed, and the regime particularly focused on exterminating intellectuals, academics, teachers or anyone with an education. The effects of this brutal regime are still seen today, as the country and its political, legal and economic institutions are being rebuilt.

Ninety-six percent of Cambodian children enrol in primary school. This is an official figure and it is likely that is not correct, but it is still an extraordinary figure when considering the recent history of the Khmer Rouge and its complete destruction of the education system.

However, children often drop out of school, and fewer than 50% complete lower secondary education. The reasons for these low levels of completion rates are many, and some can be found in the poor quality of education and the school environment.

Violence and discrimination in Cambodian schools

Children struggle to learn in overcrowded classrooms with teachers lacking pedagogical skills and materials. For girls, children with disabilities and children from ethnic minorities, the situation is even more difficult. Schoolchildren are subjected to physical punishment and emotional abuse by teachers and school staff; corporal punishment is widespread.

With funding from the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children is working to wipe out violence and discrimination in Cambodian schools for good. The IKEA Foundation will also help us strengthen the education system, working with the local and provincial education authorities in their school management and monitoring.

The project focuses on improving the school environment in disadvantaged rural and remote schools. We’re particularly supporting marginalised groups—such as girls, ethnic minorities and children with disabilities—so they can access and enjoy a safe, child-friendly school.

We’re also getting parents and communities involved in their children’s education. We want them to commit to having a violence-free, inclusive school environment because we believe that all children have the right to be safe at school.

    Juli Riegler