Education in Cambodia is compulsory and free, for 9 years, in theory. In reality, the children face many difficulties. In theory, they do not have to pay school fees. In reality, they are charged extra fees to supplement their teacher’s salaries and other expenses. Many children can not attend the public schools because they do not have the money to pay the extra charges.
Classes at the public schools are only for half a day, probably because of budget constraints. The teachers are paid a very low salary - about 50 US dollars, I was told. They have to take on other jobs, such as tutoring, to supplement their salaries. It is easy to imagine the impact on the quality of their teaching at the public schools.
Community centers such as those run by Village Earth and Anjali House provide supplementary education to the children who attend the public schools. Often, the haphazard classes run by Village Earth are the only classes that they attend, because they cannot afford the extra fees charged by the public schools. The Village Earth staff would implore the teachers at the public schools to let these children attend the public schools even though they cannot pay the extra fees
Many parents do not send their children to the schools because the children are needed on the farms, or otherwise to supplement the family income. Many children make their living on the garbage mountains, or begging on the streets.
The rich kids, as always, have their private schools and international schools. They even have regular soldiers moonlighting as security guards for protection from kidnappers.
Our children in Hong Kong face their own challenges: rote learning, competition to get into the elite schools, suffocation by the pressure to succeed, ...
But the poor children of Cambodia would probably love to have the chance to face such challenges.