Camp-Educated Struggle for Recognition

Education officials are sched­­uled to meet this week to discuss the ongoing problem of educational certificates earned by refugee camp residents, which are not being recognized by Cambodian schools and universities.

Without recognition of their accomplishments, many Cam­bo­dians who want to continue their education have been disenfranchised, authorities say.

At issue are certificates earned by people living in refugee camps following the virtual destruction of Cambodia’s educational infrastructure by the Khmer Rouge.

Now is the time to clear bu­reaucratic hurdles, Ministry of Ed­ucation, Youth and Sport Sec­retary of State Pok Than said.

More than a year ago, top education officials wrote the Council of Ministers requesting they resume recognition of the camp certificates. A spokesman for the Council of Ministers said in Sep­tember of 2000 that the council would meet with education officials “soon” to discuss the issue.

Young people living in refugee camps along the border had access to teachers and textbooks, and often received a better education than their counterparts in­side Cambodia.

The certificates were recognized until 1997, when some 30 cer­tificates purporting to be issued in refugee camps were found to be forgeries. At the time, the Ministry of Education stopp­ed issuing certificates of equivalence recognizing the students’ credentials. They have not issued the certificates since.

Some students have alleged they are victims of a corrupt and discriminatory educational system that prefers to save scarce university slots and scholarships for students who have political connections or are wealthy.

The Paris Peace Accords of 1991—touted for bringing an end to 20 years of civil war—decreed that Cambodian educational institutions must recognize certificates awarded to citizens living in exile, including residents of ref­ugee camps.

“The camp certificates are worthy and they should be recognized,” said Pok Than. “The students worked very hard for them.”


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