The continuous spread of Covid-19, in addition to alarmingly high rates of infection and death, has forced the closure of schools nationwide, both public and private. School closures and the extent of Covid-19 has had a profound effect on the education of Cambodian children, mainly those who are underprivileged, in almost every area across the country. Child poverty continues to rise and poses a risk to children’s development opportunities throughout the country.
Despite improvements in recent years, access and quality of education in Cambodia is still a prominent issue, thus student dropout rates continue to increase.
To explore the possible causes of such an issue, a team of students attending MAP Media Academy made a short documentary video by conducting some in-person interviews with four randomly selected families in the neighborhood that experienced one or two of their children dropping out of school. As expected, a number of factors and conditions associated with student dropouts were discovered – the need for household chores or domestic work, school-related expenses, poor academic performance, chronic absenteeism, students having broken school rules, illnesses, marriage and so on. However, there were two major contributors leading to the students dropping out – the need to work to earn money for the family, specifically during the Covid-19 widespread, and the fact that they dislike school because of having fallen too far behind.
Tha Virak, 18, the eldest brother, and his younger brother, Tha Sopheap said that they could no longer concentrate on the lessons at school, because they could not bear to see their mother, who brought up four hungry children, do it on her own. Therefore, they decided to quit school and looked for work instead, in order to lessen her heavy burdens. On a typical day, the two brothers can make up to $10 per day from their lotus flower business.
For dropout students specifically, MAP in Cambodia has designed, and is constantly adjusting its education curriculum in a way that those who are unable to attend classes on the regular schedule can study at any time of the day. To achieve such a goal, we have developed a fun and movie-based English program, intriguing enough so that our students can still take part in some sort of learning activities.
We look forward to continuing our efforts and appreciate MAP and all its supporters for making these provisions for underprivileged families possible.