Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hong Kong Book on Cambodia

Ever since we started doing community service in Cambodia in 2010, I have been eager to learn as much as possible about the country.  So I was happy to find this book published by one of the local universities, edited by a well-known professor of political science and an active person in the local political scene.

I was extremely surprised to see that, according to this book, 93.8% of the 6-year-olds were in school in 2009. And even more surprisingly, 95.8% of those aged 6 to 11 were in school.

This is incredible.  Everywhere we went in Cambodia, even in Phnom Penh, the capital city, numerous children wandered in the streets during school hours.  Many of them were in tattered clothes, or none at all.  Many were begging, picking up trash, or just plainly loitering.  When we worked inside some of the schools, many children stood outside the school gates, peeking in longingly.  It breaks you heart seeing it, watching children suffer, not getting what all children deserve - a chance to be educated.

In one school run by a NGO, there were ~20 students in primary one, ~15 in primary 2, ~10 in primary 3, ...  and no more than 3 in primary 6.  According to the teachers, many of the older kids were old enough to work - mostly picking recycle-ables from the garbage, so they cannot come to school.  And this situation is not atypical.

The percentage of 6-to-11-olds in school is definitely much less than 95.8%.  The book’s authors and editors probably just took the data published by the Cambodian government, without checking the data’s validity.  If the data is correct, Cambodia would not have been in such dire straits.  It would have been much more hopeful.  It should be obvious to any educated person that the data is not believable.  Why did they not bother to check?

What good is such a book then?   It is worse than not having a book because it is a lie.

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