29 Apr Wedu in Cambodia
Back in the old days, education in Cambodia was provided by traditional Buddhist temples and it had been maintained as a male privilege. After the ups and downs that the country has gone through during the colonial period and the reign of the Khmer Rouge, the current democratic Cambodian government eventually came to power in 1979 it had to reconstruct the entire education system as guaranteed in the constitution – free compulsory education should be provided to all citizens for nine years, and the universal right to basic quality education should be upheld. The implementation of such rights, however, has always been difficult.
Problems that the Cambodian education system faces include: inadequate government funding (a mere 2.1% of GDP; ranked 153th in world), a severe shortage of qualified teachers, poor morale due to low wage levels and lack of appropriate teaching materials. Enrollment rate remains unsatisfactory especially in rural areas as children usually have to stay at home and help their families in the fields. As a result, low literacy rates still persist: only around 70% of the population can read and write, with the percentage of literate women significant lower than that of literate men (CIA world factbook, 2012). I many Southeast Asian cultures, where boys are perceived as the primary breadwinner, the priority of opportunities for schooling and training goes to boys. Many girls, due to a lack of education and as a result a lack of alternative means to sustain their livelihood, are forced into involuntary labor and even prostitution. According to UNICEF (2005), an estimated 30 % of sex workers in Cambodia are under 18 years of age, having less than three years of basic education and little or no vocational skills. The link between the lack of education and girls’ vulnerability is therefore, crystal clear.
Wedu identifies Cambodia as one of those countries where more attention should be paid on female education. As mentioned in the previous entry, investments in girls’ schooling and training will not only profit the girls themselves – their families, local communities and even the entire country will also be benefited. Here are some pictures of our tour to Cambodia: we visited schools, talked to the locals and encouraged them to apply to our programme. We hope every little effort we have made would eventually, bit by bit, bring better lives to the people there, as we have always believed education is the key to all the success.
Stef Lau is currently a MSc Social Policy and Development student at LSE and the communication intern at Wedu Fund. She has previously undertaken internships in both the public and private sector in China and Ghana and she has also had study abroad experiences in National University of Singapore (Singapore) and UCLA (the United States). She is particularly interested in promoting gender equality as well as the welfare of migrants.