Kindergarten in Cambodia is still underdeveloped, especially in rural and marginalized areas. For several years, Aide et Action and its partners have been promoting pre-school care from the earliest age in dedicated centres. But the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the almost immediate closure of these centres. For these vulnerable children, the consequences will be heavy and long-lasting, insists Aide et Action on the occasion of the International Day of Education (24 January).
" When the schools closed, I was immediately concerned about the children I was caring for. They had only been in class for a few months when the lockdown was imposed. Without this basic preparation, they may not be able to succeed in primary school We have to make sure that the people who are going to be killed are not killed," said San Rith, a pre-school teacher in the village of Preyn Nob II Sihanoukville. " The children I take in don't have many learning opportunities. So when the schools closed, I was worried. With their parents, they didn't really work, even when I gave them exercises. In our village, education is not very important and many adults still think that education is useless, so the children spend their time playing and looking at screenssays Phnom Nasang, a 24-year-old pre-school teacher in Koh Trach village in Kampong Trach district.
Isolation and deprivation
" In the village of Toul Torteng, the lockdown lasted almost seven months. I knew that the children were looking forward to going back to school, but the authorities imposed a total closure of the schools. So I decided on my own to go and meet them at their homes. Despite home schooling, the closure of the schools had a huge impact on the children's development and progress, they were deprived of contact with their friends and some of them were quarantined for months, with hardly any food, alongside anxious parents who were unable to work "Yom Som Oun, 42, a teacher at Toul Torteng kindergarten, adds.
Promoting understanding of the importance of education
" COVID has totally transformed our teaching practices. Before, we used to meet face to face, but during the pandemic, I had to teach in small groups in each other's homes. I spent 20 minutes to an hour with each group depending on the needs and I repeated this every day. This affected the children a lot. Already in class, they found it very difficult to follow. If their parents don't encourage them, they won't be able to catch up "San Rith is concerned. This more than worrying observation is shared by most of the teachers we work with. " I tried to make parents understand the importance of getting children to work. But in my village, many of them work in small businesses and move around the region. They have often left their children with grandparents, who are often very old, and so communicating with them has been very difficult. I tried to make them understand the consequences of the lack of education, but I don't know if they really listened. I'm afraid that for many of my pupils the transition to primary school, without having had any preparation in kindergarten, will not go well. "insists Phnom Nasang, 34.
Aide et Action once again salutes the courage and self-sacrifice of all the teachers who, despite the pandemic and the risks involved, braved the obstacles to ensure the education of their students. Many thanks to them.