The Covid-19 pandemic has caused less sickness in Cambodia than in most other parts of the world.https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/cambodia/.
However, the country has suffered greatly from the downturn in the global economy and the closure of international borders. Tourism has been badly hit and exports are down too. Cambodians are adapting, some have returned to the land and others have taken to street trading.
The Covid-19 restrictions meant that we were unable to accept any new pupils at the centre this year. But last year’s cohort of 64 young people were delighted to return to their new boarding houses
In December, at the end of a chaotic academic year characterised by school closures, distance learning and repeated postponement of assignments and assessments, the government decided to award the baccalauréat (the local equivalent of UK A-levels) to all pupils in Grade 12.
The start of the university year was put back from November 2020 to March 2021 but is now being affected by restrictions imposed in the light of recent cases of Covid-19. In order to ensure that they do not give places to too many weaker students, only to have them drop out soon afterwards, many state universities have introduced an entrance exam. The government is also offering thousands of bursaries to students who qualify as “poor” or “priority”.
Our Khmer staff and international volunteers have done a wonderful job over the last few months. The local representatives of the Ministry of Education have praised our online courses, and our approach to pupil monitoring, which have kept the dropout rate low despite the circumstances and produced good end of year exam results for pupils of all ages. With our boarding houses empty, staff and volunteers have been providing more support for pupils living at home, which has boosted their motivation.
The Ministry of Education has made educational reforms which mirror the approach that Children of the Mekong has already been taking for several years. More and more emphasis is being placed on mastering key knowledge and skills rather than on the acquisition of a more superficial familiarity with a large and often poorly-digested volume of information.
Children of the Mekong has taken advantage of this change to reduce the number of teaching hours in our centres, and to place greater emphasis on practical work and independent learning (research projects, group work, tutorials). As a result, pupils are more fulfilled and less tired.
« My name is Sopheap. I was born in 1990. My family was very poor, and life was extremely hard. I am married with a three-year-old son called Tyasin.
My parents are farmers. They separated in 2005. I have eight brothers and sisters, who all left school at an early age. I was the only one to carry on. I spent a lot of time studying because I knew if I worked hard, I could get a good job. I thought it was the only way in which I could escape from poverty.
I will never forget Children of the Mekong, who supported me through my later years at school and at university. Now I am a social worker for Children of the Mekong, a job that I love. I am really grateful for everything that Children of the Mekong has done for me.”