En Route to Long-Distance Learning

Since the government relocated the Royal University of Fine Arts’ north campus to Phnom Penh Thmei commune in Russei Keo district in 2005, the cost of transportation has turned into a major obstacle both for students and teachers.

This is why the three-bus service provided by King Norodom Sihamoni has become so popular among them. Designed to sit 35 to 40 students, the buses are usually overloaded by the time they drop off passengers at the campus each morning.

“Sometimes, there are 70 to 80 people on the bus, and one day I counted 100 people,” said Thav Chanreasay, a fourth-year music student and a piano teacher at the Secondary School of Fine Arts.

Moving the dance, music and circus-arts campus to Boeng Bayab village was part of a land exchange between the government and the Mong Reththy Group in 2005.

“The new campus is not safe, which is why it’s hard to find moto-taxi drivers to take us back to Phnom Penh in the evening,” said Vong Metry, a RUFA teacher and the deputy director of the Apsara Arts Association.

“Sometimes, I have to walk from the school to the main road to find a moto-taxi driver. And there are so many gangsters on the dirt road from RUFA to the main road—I’m pretty scared to be there in the evening,” she said.

And the situation has only become worse with the recent spike in gasoline prices, which has led to teachers and students missing more classes, teachers say.

In addition, enrollment has decreased considerably, they say.

Prior to the move, when the campus was located beside the Old Stadium, there were as many as 100 students in the Circus School, said Nay Nary, deputy director of the secondary school’s Circus School.

Today, the combined number of circus-arts students at the secondary school and RUFA is about 35, she said.

Nevertheless, Nay Nary added, “the kind-hearted donation of the three buses by the King has been a great help for my impoverished circus-arts students—most of them are poor people who don’t even have the means to buy a bicycle to ride to school.”

King Sihamoni’s mini-buses run along three lines, said Thann Sin Thou, who teaches Khmer literature and philosophy at the Secondary School of Fine Arts.

“The King has a kind heart and definitely understands the hardship of students and teachers who have to travel long distances to reach the new campus…which is why he has really helped us,” she said.

If they had the chance to make a request, the teachers say they would ask the

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