Education NGOs on Thursday presented their findings from an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of textbooks intended for secondary school students under an Asian Development Bank (ADB) scheme.
In a study conducted across Phnom Penh and three provinces, The Khmer Institute for National Development (KIND) and the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) found that ADB-funded textbooks were being claimed by officials and sold at market.
“Most of the textbooks that belonged to the state were stolen by businessmen who sold them in markets in Phnom Penh and various other provinces,” KIND and ANSA-EAP said in a joint statement.
In 2008, the ADB pledged $27.1 million to the Enhancing Education Quality Project, a joint venture with the Education Ministry.
Under the scheme, the ADB funded the printing and distribution of $1.3 million worth of textbooks and instructional materials, which were supposed to be delivered by the publishing and distribution house directly to the schools.
In their investigation, KIND and ANSA-EAP surveyed a total of 33 schools across Phnom Penh and Kompong Cham, Kompong Speu and Kampot provinces, the majority of which had not received the educational materials as intended.
“Twenty-three out of 30 schools in Phnom Penh, Kampot, Kompong Cham and Kompong Speu received textbooks from the district education office,” the statement says, adding that informal fees were paid to secure the transport of the books to the schools.
Teachers told the investigators that when they went to pick up the textbooks at the district education offices, they were often asked to leave as many as 10 books per subject with the officials there.
“These acts are…the reason as to why most of the textbooks have been lost,” the statement concludes.
Most of the missing textbooks, ANSA-EAP representative San Chey said, were found on sale at local markets after being siphoned off by district officials.
The study also found that among the 33 schools surveyed, only 10 had received any textbooks by October 1, the beginning of the school year. The others received books in November and December.
Lim Sotharith, chief of the Education Ministry’s textbook supply department, said although the ministry had tried to stop its officials from siphoning off textbooks, it was still “a complex problem.”
“If we find that education officials have done this, they will be punished according to the education law,” he said.
The ADB could not be reached for comment.