04/12/2011 - Damaged Schools delay the education of thousands of students across Cambodia; disruption could impact drop-out rates and meeting MDGs.
Cambodia’s worst flooding in decades has resulted in damaged infrastructure across the country, including schools. Such damage means that rebuilding may take months, delaying the start of school for thousands of students.
According to aid workers and government officials, as of late October, 323 schools out of 1,400 damaged ones were closed. Although some of these schools have reopened, there are reports that 77 of them need to be rebuilt entirely, and efforts are still underway to pump water out of some of the affected schools.
Reports from the Ministry of Education are that some estimated 20,000 children remain out of school.
These numbers are concerning for many teachers, who are warning that such a long absence from school could have a larger impact on dropout rates for students. As well, not only has flooding impacted infrastructure, but it has also exacerbated the already chronic shortage of books and supplies in many schools.
The president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association stated that some schools simply opened their doors in October with no teaching materials.
Education in Cambodia was already precarious even before the floods. According to IRIN, the country's progress on the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for primary school education is mixed: 94 percent of primary school-age children were enrolled for the 2009-2010 school year; 83 percent of students enrolled in primary school completed the 2008-2009 year.
However, according to a UN report, Net Primary Enrolment Rates are within reach of the MDG target of universal enrolment by 2015. However, lower secondary education goals cannot be achieved by 2015 at the current pace.
The UN report does not reflect what the fallout of the flooding will be on enrolment rates.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEPF) is therefore calling on the government to ensure that the existing guidelines to make up lost school hours are enforced, which could hopefully work to mitigate the risk that the floods may derail progress on primary education.
Progress for the welfare of children has been positive for the most part in Cambodia, although it still has among the highest rates of child mortality in the region of Southeast Asia, and maternal health remains off track for meeting the MDGs in 2015.