New Effort to Get Thousands of Children Into Classrooms

More than 57,000 primary school-aged children across the country are currently missing out on an education, according to the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children (CCOSC), a new group set up to implement a major push to get young Cambodians into the classroom.

A total of 17 local and international development organizations have joined together to enroll those children missing out on school through the new consortium—and ensure they keep attending classes.

Officially launched Thursday in Phnom Penh by Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron, who will be the chairman of a national advisory board to the $20 million project, CCOSC members say they will work with vulnerable children, their teachers, families and communities to find ways for the youngsters to attend school.

According to Aide et Action, the education NGO leading the 3-1/2-year initiative, Cambodia had a primary school enrollment rate of 96 percent in 2013 to 2014. But in the previous school year, around 8 percent of children enrolled in school but dropped out before they even had a chance to complete Grade 1, making retention one of the greatest challenges, the NGO says.

Samphors Vorn, Aide et Action Cambodia director, said the new consortium would draw on the existing knowledge of those organizations involved in order to target children who are most likely to miss out on schooling—those who are poor, disabled, from ethnic minority families or living in remote areas or on the streets.

James Sutherland, international communications coordinator for Friends International, a NGO that supports at-risk children and is a member of CCOSC, said all children needed to be given the opportunity to learn.

“Without education, it’s very difficult to get jobs and make your way in the world, Mr. Sutherland said.

“Our program is very much working towards getting children into schools and into vocational training…. So, to get the marginalized out of the margins so they can become productive members of society and make a contribution.”

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