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Bringing rural schools up to speed online


About 32 kilometres outside Phnom Penh stands a public secondary school that is one of the small, but growing, group of government-run schools in the Kingdom connected to the internet. Thet Visith, a grade 9 student at Samraong Leu high school in Kandal province, said he is only able to use the internet for two hours a week, but he is still grateful for the free use of online resources. “It is good to have an internet connection at my school because I can look for interesting news and gain new knowledge easily,” he said.

E-learning, as the process of getting knowledge and skills through digital sources is called, can bring educational material from around the world directly to students is places that are otherwise isolated. In the 21st century, it is one of the most powerful tools that a person can have for learning, but in Cambodia there are millions of students who go to schools with no internet access at all.

It’s already been 14 years since the first computer user sent a message over the internet, to their counterpart in California, but the reach of the internet is still very limited in the Kingdom. Due to a lack of electricity, digital infrastructure and technology education, students in remote areas of Cambodia struggle to connect to the internet at all, let alone use it regularly as an academic resource.

According to data from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications obtained received earlier this month, the Kingdom had 291,589 internet subscribers out of 14.8 million people total, just under 2 percent of the population, not including people who access the internet through cell phones or other mobile devices. According to these statistics, internet penetration in Cambodia is one of the lowest in the world, and well behind the average in Asia, 21.5 percent, and the world average, 28.7 percent.

The students at Samraong Leu secondary school are able to utilize the internet thanks to Japanese Asia Pacific Technology, as part of a Research and Human Development project. Project manager Tuy Lay Veasna said they are working with hospitals and high schools in Kandal province to promote the use of the internet in education and health services (E-health). He added that the project is in its pilot phase, but he hopes to get more funds to expand the initiative to other remote areas of the country.

Ean Savy is one of the few public school teachers in the Kingdom who teaches computer classes, but she said many of the students at Samraong Leu secondary school aren’t benefiting due to a lack of English skills or familiarity with technology.

“People in remote areas do not know what a computer is, and some are even afraid of computers,” said Chea Sok Huor, the project manager for iReach (Information for Rural Empowerment and Community Health), a project with 10 centres in Kep and Prey Veng provinces, funded by the Canadian government, which provides the internet to students and residents in those areas so they can stay educated. “Bringing the internet to their areas helps them understand more and know where they can get the information they need.”

With the aim of helping children learn through creative exploration, CAMBODIA P.R.I.D.E., founded in 2005, is another organization looking to expand internet access in Cambodia. The Reaksmy Primary School in rural Preah Vihear province is their main focus, and so far they have given more than 300 students regular access to computers and the world-wide-web.

Despite the stated mission, student explorations aren’t completely self-guided. “We don’t allow students to use the internet independently because there are many things both positive and negative in the internet world,” said Svay Pearak, an English teacher at Cambodia P.R.I.D.E whose students are learning to learn through the internet.

Once students get to university, the internet is essential, said Hor Sokpolyne, an 18-year0old sophomore studying at the Institute of Foreign Languages, but she isn’t sure how crucial it is for younger students in rural places. “I wonder if the internet provides better standards of living to people in remote areas if there is still poor electricity in some places,” she said.

This is exactly the situation that Pen Sokun, the director of Damnak Ampil secondary school in Kandal province, faces in teaching his students to use technology. “I have only two computers running on solar power for more than 300 students. It is not enough,” he said. Only with more computers, and more teachers who can train students, will he be able to properly teach technology to the students at his school.

1997

  • First computer in Cambodia with full-time internet connection.
  • Two commercial Internet Service Providers (ISPs) started to offer services

2003

  • The Asia Foundation launched a network of 22 Community Information Centres, within two years they had half a million visits.
  • .kh Domain names are made available by Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

2004

  • The Open Forum of Cambodia made Khmer fonts, a Khmer software application called Moyura, and an all Khmer operating system available to the public

By: Dara Saoyuth & Cheng Lita

This article was publish on LIFT, Issue 58 published on February 16, 2011
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CAMBODIA – Kingdom of Wondering about how new laws will change our lives


Born in Kandal’s Ponhea Leu district, this young man decided to leave home for Phnom Penh in 2009 to get a better education. Chan Sokneang, 22, is now a sophomore in English literature at the National University of Management.

Staying independently in Neakvon Pagoda, Chan Sokneang is struggling to make a living as an intern at an organisation in the city, hoping to gain some experience for his future goal as an NGO staff member after graduation. He hopes to land his dream job so he will not have to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a farmer.

“I am very concerned about job opportunities that NGOs provide since the draft of the NGO law might affect their recruitment,” said Chan Sokneang.

Released on December 15, 2010, the draft law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations aims to “set out formalities and conditions for forming, registering and operating associations, domestic non-governmental organisations and foreign non-governmental organisations in the Kingdom of Cambodia”.

Chan Sokneang said he was worried that the law would decrease the number of NGOs, which could cut down his opportunities to work for an NGO in the future.

In Samrithy, the Executive Director of NGO Education Partnership, said the new law constrained the cooperation between national and international NGOs, but it will not lessen NGOs’ careers. Instead, the law would make the recruitment process more complicated.

He added that this law did not attract donors to provide funds to Cambodia. He said: “If the donors stop funding Cambodian organisations, many NGOs staff will be laid off,” he said, adding that the law should be made to attract donors rather than to discourage them from helping Cambodia.

However, the concern of not having many NGO job opportunities is not the real issue in Cambodia’s job market. Sandra Damico, the Managing Director of HR Inc Cambodia, said NGOs do not provide the overwhelming majority of jobs in the market. It was the small and medium enterprises sector that employed the most people with sectors such as garments, tourism, finances, telecoms etc providing the most formal and documented employment.

She said: “I don’t think that the law will have a significant impact on creating employment opportunities – the private sector is the sector that will and does generate the most employment.”

Although the law does not greatly affect the job opportunities of young Cambodians, it may act as a barrier in framing NGOs’ activities.

Associations and NGOs draft law sample

Associations and NGOs draft law sample

There are 11 chapters with 58 articles in the draft law. Sok Samoeun, an executive director at Cambodian Defenders Project, said the government tends to control and limit NGOs and association’s activities by using the law.

“At the start of each month, they have to draft and send their activities to the government and also at the end of the month they have to do activities and financial reports to the government, which seems like they have to report everything,” Sok Samoeun explained.

According to Article 6 of the law, an association and non-governmental organisation or alliance of associations or local non-governmental organisations which are not registered or do not have a memorandum signed in accordance with this law shall not be allowed to operate any activity in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Sok Samoeun said the registration should be the right for NGOs and associations.

On January 21 this year, there was a meeting to discuss the draft law at the Ministry of Interior between the government and NGOs representatives including Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, NGO Forum, Medicam, Adhoc and Oxfam.

People who attended the meeting said the new law is going through a process and it is very important to understand each side so the law will work for all after being implemented. They said the law was not being made to violate anyone’s rights.

“If any NGO or association feels that any point in the law is violating their rights, please raise the specific article so that we can discuss it with each other,” said Try Sokheng, who was at the meeting.

Try Sokheng said the law was not being made to close any NGOs or associations down, but the government just wanted all NGOs and associations to register at the ministry of interior within 180 days of the law pass being passed.

“It depends on them. If they don’t want to continue, they can close and if they want to continue, they have to register,” said Try Sokheng, adding that some NGOs and associations that don’t have clear goals might not be able to exist anymore.

By: Dara Saoyuth & Tang Khyhay
This article was publish on LIFT, Issue 55 published on January 26, 2010
You can download this draft law in English by CLICKING HERE

Photo Story: Grapefruit Seller


I’ve spent around 2 hours walking along riverside this morning to take some photos and make it into a photo story for my photojournalism class. I ended up with shooting a “Grapefruit Sellers” after trying many different subjects. Four photos accompanied by some descriptions below is what I handed to my teacher and I would like to share this with all STUDENT BLOG visitors here. Cheers,

1. Portrait

Portrait

Chan Sokhan, 62, comes from Kandal province to live in Phnom Penh an has worked as a grapefruits seller since 1983. Every 1 week to 2 weeks, there is a person taking grapefruits from Kampong Cham for her to sell. / By: Dara Saoyuth

2. Relationship

Relationship

She doesn’t sell alone. Normally, her husband, Kham Sokhorn, stays with her from the start until time they go back home. They work around 12 hours a day starting approximately from 8am until 8pm. / By: Dara Saoyuth

3. Establishing shot

Establishing shot

They have to pay 500 riels per day to police to be able to sell in front of Chaktomuk theatre on the pavement where they use as the place for resting, having lunch and dinner. / By: Dara Saoyuth

4. Person at work

Person at work

When there is nothing to do, Chan Sokhan peel grapefruits skin ready to sell to customers. "Though I cannot get much from selling grapefruits, I want to live on my own rather than asking for money from my children." / By: Dara Saoyuth

By: Dara Saoyuth
08/01/2010

 

Pine Plantation Area in Mondulkiri


Dear all Student Blog visitors,

As mentioned in previous post, our trip to Mondulkiri 3 weeks earlier is not only a fun but also a study tour. We were assigned to do a project under Eco-tourism theme. My group has done a short video clip on Pine Plantation Area in the province. Let’s see what we have for you! Cheers,

Reflections on a different of the Kingdom


Sunset in Mondulkiri

Sunset in Mondulkiri / by: Dara Saoyuth

The eight-hour trip on the bus to Mondulkiri was the longest journey of my life. To reach the final destination of our class trip to one of Cambodia’s most beautiful places we passed through Kandal, Kampong Cham and Kratie provinces. It wasn’t going to all fun on the trip, as my classmates at the Department of Media and Communication at RUPP and I were divided into groups to do class projects about eco-tourism, however, we were sure to find plenty of time for fun on the trip.

Being used to watching never ending traffic and looking at buildings that reach high into the sky, I really enjoyed the view along the way to Mondulkiri, filled with various types of trees, expansive fields and rolling mountains. Once the long trip was finally over we were dropped off at the city centre, where we checked out the central market and surrounding parks. The market was small and unimpressive and the park was filled with dust instead of flowers, so we weren’t anxious to stick around.

Since 80 percent of the population was comprised of ethnic minorities, making me think it would be rural and lack a lot of modern influence, I was surprised to see there were plenty of guesthouses and karaoke bars nearby. It seemed there were very few differences between life out here and back in Phnom Penh.

But, after talking to some of the native people I began to notice a gap between Cambodians in the city and ethnic minorities in the country side. The indigenous people often live alongside nature and make a living by farming and growing vegetables. Among other things, living deep in the forest or far away from civilization makes it harder for ethnic minorities to get to school and receive a proper education.

 

Development in Mondulkiri

Development in Mondulkiri / by: Dara Saoyuth

Now that industry is beginning to get started in the province, people are able to move about more and even start their own businesses in the area. We saw an example of this two nights during a party at Angkor Forest Guesthouse, where we were staying, when people were invited to dance to Khmer music and indigenous music from local minority population.

The hardest part of staying in the northern forest of Cambodia was the cold weather in the evening and especially in the morning.  I had to cover myself with two blankets just to sleep, and wear a sweater whenever I left my room. Beyond that, I liked everything in Mondulkiri, especially the natural tourism sites. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to say yes if anyone asked me to go there again.

By: Dara Saoyuth
This article was published on Lift, Issue 50 published on December 22, 2010
You can also read the article on Phnom Penh Post website by CLICKING HERE

Briton arrested in Cambodia on child sex


A 50-year-old British man has been arrested for a second time in Cambodia on suspicion of sexually abusing underage girls, one as young as 11, police said on Monday.

Michael Julian Leach, from London, was arrested at a guesthouse near Phnom Penh on Sunday, said Keo Thea, chief of the capital’s anti-human-trafficking and juvenile protection unit.

“Police had followed him from Phnom Penh because we knew in advance that he would go to find children in Kandal province,” he told AFP.

Leach, in Cambodia as a tourist, was being held for allegedly soliciting sex from two girls aged 11 and 13, Keo Thea said, adding that three Cambodian people were also arrested for procuring the girls.

Leach was first arrested in Cambodia 2005 – when he was working as a doctor at a children’s organisation – for allegedly having sex with three underage girls, police said.

He was freed after the court dropped charges against him, citing a lack of evidence.

Dozens of foreigners have been jailed for child sex crimes or deported to face trial in their home countries since Cambodia launched an anti-paedophilia push in 2003 in a bid to shake off its reputation as a haven for sex predators.

by: Dara Saoyuth
Edited by: Mr. Suy Se, Cambodian news correspondent for AFP, and AFP editors
This article is under AFP copyright
06/09/2010
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