Despite advances in Cambodia's education system over the last two decades, very large problems remain. Current provision is characterized by high drop-out rates for both boys and girls, though girls drop out earlier and in greater number than boys. This then results in limited female candidates going into higher education. Many indigenous minorities and forest-dwelling communities are also disadvantaged as a result of land grabbing, forced migration, geographic isolation and language barriers. Some villages are so remote that it is impossible for children to make the journey to the nearest school and yet are so small that they have not had a school provided. Although the children are very keen to learn, they may at best only have adults or parents from the village acting as teachers and giving lessons in their homes. Or they may just skip education altogether.
The lack of qualified teachers in remote and rural areas remains a major challenge, with insufficient in-service training and professional development opportunities. And the poor physical condition of schools, lack of materials and the low capacity of administrative staff are also real problems. At the local level, community involvement and accountability remain inadequate despite several reforms and initiatives.
Ockenden Cambodia is working on a programme involving 69 primary schools and all relevant stakeholders to address these issues. The majority of the schools are in Ratanakiri where 65% of the population comes from different ethnic tribes. This province is also the least developed in terms of infrastructure and has more limited access to health and education. There are four objectives:
· To improve access to education
· To improve the quality of education
· To build capacity
· To improve awareness and commitment to education
A four year programme is in place, directly reaching an extra 3,830 children (2,353 girls) and providing 168 new teachers. Ockenden itself has committed 10 full time staff specifically to manage the project.
In some cases, there is no school provision at all. Ockenden Cambodia helped fund this school building and a professional full time teacher now works in this indigenous Tampuan community.
In August 2015, an Ockenden team went to research the state of education in Yoeun Chass village, Rattanakiri. There were 116 families, with a population of 419, in 66 households. There were 184 potential students, but 100 who were not studying. The village did not have a school and education at that time was given by villagers in peoples homes.
The village chief and a School Support Committee requested help. After collecting statistical information from the village, Ockenden Cambodia arranged a series of meetings to discuss the data, the impact of students dropping out of school and the rising awareness of the value of education. The main problem was that the nearest school was too far away. The following week, the Ockendem team met to discuss building a school and arranged a budget, including contributions from private companies and a charity which had provided sheets of zinc for the roof and 3 boxes of nails.
In September 2015, an event was arranged with the District Office of Education, inviting them to participate through community awareness events to see the actual situation. Following this, they gave their support and helped provide a teacher, some books and 30 chairs.