Ambitious Adult Literacy Campaign Falls Short of Target

With less than three months left before the end of a campaign to boost adult literacy in Cambodia, enrollment in classes run jointly by the government and Unesco has dropped below 75 percent of the year-end goal, officials said Tuesday.

In a final push to complete a 15-year plan and meet global education goals set by Unesco in 2000, the Cambodian government and Unesco launched a campaign in March to enroll 90,000 adults in literacy classes by the end of 2015. The two-hour classes are held Monday through Friday.

But with just 65,870 Cambodians currently enrolled in the 3,151 classes, the goal of an 84.4 percent nationwide adult literacy rate will not be met this year, Unesco country director Anne Lemaistre said on the sidelines of an orientation event in Phnom Penh on Tuesday for 88 young volunteers tasked with helping to maintain current enrollment levels.

“There is a fatigue from the learners. It’s extra effort to include that [course] into their life,” she said, attributing the humbling figures to a high dropout rate.

“We have seen some decrease in some classes. From 25 [students]…we will realize we have only 20 in the class, suddenly,” she said.

“The main challenge now is really to finish,” she added.

According to Santosh Khatri, Unesco Cambodia’s education specialist, the new volunteers initiated Tuesday would assist literacy teachers and students in classes close to their homes. But of the 88 recruited, Mr. Khatri said, just 10 would be helping in rural areas outside Phnom Penh, where literacy rates are lowest and enrolling students is most challenging.

“If you go to the north region and northeast region…[the population is] very widespread. So to organize…classes to bring lots of people together is a challenge,” he said by telephone.

Lay Malenoynareay, 16, who was among the volunteers at the orientation, said her own experience with adult illiteracy had inspired her to lend her time to the program.

“My grandmother still is illiterate,” Ms. Malenoynareay said.

“It was really hard because when I was young, I lived with her and I wanted to study with her, but she couldn’t help me to read a book or something like that. It was hard to communicate with each other,” she said.

Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin declined to comment on the program.

[email protected]

© 2015, All rights reserved.