Educators and officials have complained that overcrowded classrooms are becoming more of a problem in Phnom Penh and standing in the way of students getting a quality education.
Um Hoeung, Phnom Penh municipal education department chief, said that on a typical day throughout the city, around 100 students pack into classrooms made to seat about half as many.
He said the government needs to build more classrooms and to do it quickly to combat the increasing numbers of students flocking to Phnom Penh from the countryside in search of a better education.
“We can’t hide this problem,” he said, adding that some additional classrooms are already being built.
Meak Chorasmey, director of Santhor Mok High School in Tuol Kok district, said his school’s 50 classrooms are crammed with up to 120 students each.
The crowds of students are so thick that teachers have to use microphones to communicate with the students in the back who have no hope of being able to see the chalkboard, he said.
A packed classroom was so hot on Tuesday that an 11th grade female student fainted, Meak Chorasmey said.
“I pity the students and the teachers,” he said, adding that there will be a groundbreaking ceremony at his school next week to signal the beginning of construction on 10 additional classrooms—though he said another 30 will be needed after that.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association, said overcrowding leads students to drop out of school because they aren’t engaged in the classroom on a daily basis.
He said that increasing numbers of students without an equal expansion of classrooms and school resources spells disaster for the education system.
“Students are sure to drop out,” he said, adding that the boom in new students is an additional strain on teachers who are already severely underpaid.
“The government always says it will focus on these issues, but doesn’t take serious action,” he added.