"Know more about MDGs" Vol. 2
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Children's House in Steung Meanchey, Cambodia
By Miyuki Asano (Kikuna Church, Yokohama Diocese)
Children's potential will be raised by the surrounding environment and the education. When we think about the education for the better future, there are a lot of problems and challenges before the children in Russey Village. The attendance rate at primary school in Cambodia is considered high, but many children drop out of school half way. The reasons are varied such as parents' financial problem and lack of understanding about education and problems in Cambodian educational system.
Many children in Steung Meanchey do not have an access to the educational institution due to the poverty of their families. As the children want to help their parents, they do not go to school but work at the refuge dump to contribute to their families' income. Families must have cash income to get their children to receive the education but some of them waste money on alcohol and gambling.
The parents of the children in Children's House were farmers in the country. They came to cities as they could not earn enough money to support their families. They did not have opportunities to receive the education due to the long-lasting civil war and they are now busy making their living. To them their children are the important labor power and the children have to help the house work and look after their younger brothers and sisters. Some of the parents understand the importance of their children's education but they have no choice but to depend on their children's labor. In their houses there are no toy, picture book and other educational material for their children.
Problems and challenges of Cambodian schools also make the children to be away from schools. As the teachers' salary of the public schools is so low that teachers cannot make their living unless they work part-time elsewhere, they are not serious about teaching. They do not go to school on rainy days. To earn more, they collect money for the supplement classes. As the exam is about what teachers have taught in the supplement classes, children have to attend the supplement classes to pass the test. Upper the grade is, the higher the fee. The parents who cannot afford to pay the fee do not want their children to go to school and the children drop out of school and start to work to help their families. All the children enter school at the age of six in Japan, but in this area some children enter school at ten or eleven due to the financial problem of their families. But it is not easy for them to continue their study because of higher age, so they tend to choose to work rather than study. It is very important for children to make it custom to go to school since young.
JLMM opened Children's House in 2003 and provide the place for children to learn the foundation of life customs so that the children can understand what they are taught in school and like school. As a bridge to school we give basic life training to the children.
In Children's House eighty children of the age form three to fourteen are divided in three classes and study health, morals, Khmer literacy, numerals, crafts, coloring, etc. in the morning from Monday to Friday. We also accept those who have difficulties in catching up on the school class or want to study more. Some children come to Children's House to study only crafts and coloring as these subjects are not available in public primary school.
JLMM has such system that the children who are busy helping their parents can come at any convenient time and any child can study. Teachers try to design classes for children to enjoy and feel pleasant.
Some children here have very complex family problems. The teachers who understand family backgrounds of the children settle their problems with cooperation of other NGOs but many cases are beyond their control. Two girls in House for Big Children are fourteen years old but have never entered school yet. Their parents divorced when the girls were small. Lina could not stand DV of her new father and came to Phnom Penh from countryside depending on her elder sister who made her living by collecting recyclable items. She helps her elder sister in the refuge dump and come to House for Children to study when she is free. Saam' parents divorced when she was seven years old and came to Phnom Penh depending on her relatives. She lost contact with her parents and have never met them since their divorce. In accordance to the girls' wish we made an arrangement to get scholarship for them to enter primary school at the beginning of the term. As they will be twenty years old at their completion, I thought it would be better for them to start apprenticeship of dressmaking or hair-dressing than entering primary school which does not have good quality of education. But I accepted their idea to enter primary school. I worry about their future and hope that they will at least be able to read and calculate even if not to complete school.
Education is important to break a cycle of poverty. However, many children cannot receive the education in Russey Village. You may think that you cannot do anything for it because you are away from the area but we need to make efforts to build the society where there is no war, think about correcting the economic system causing poverty, make sure that the support from Japan reaches to the poor without being spent for the corruption by politicians and so on. We will work hard, continue to hold mothers meeting and home visit and let the children enter and complete school.
We will present "Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women" in the next issue. The articles will be on Thailand and Cambodia.