udong district, Kompong Speu province – Excited shrieks filled the grounds of Choumpou Proek primary school Thursday as more than 600 students and their parents loaded bags of donated rice onto bicycles, motorbikes and carts.
School principal Nheng Vorn, 56, said he had informed parents Tuesday that the Cambodia Daily Rice Crisis Donation Campaign would deliver 22 tons of rice to be distributed to the school’s 612 students.
“I rode around the village on my moto all day to let the people know they should come to the school today,” Nheng Vorn said, as children scurried to classrooms to receive their 36 kg of rice each.
Located in the village of Kraing Ta Som, about 70 km west of Phnom Penh, students and their families said they were happy for any relief from the financial pressures brought on by soaring prices of rice, gasoline and other commodities.
Many families in the village have depleted or nearly depleted their stocks of rice, said Pheng Olth, 46, whose has three children studying at Choumpou Proek school. About 70 percent of the villagers have been forced to sell some of their livestock or land, just to afford daily food, he said.
“Right now, because of high prices, people are faced with many difficulties that they don’t know how to solve,” he said.
Pheng Olth said the 900 kg of rice stock he harvested from his 2 hectares of land last year is now almost exhausted. The rice distributed to his three children Wednesday—108 kg in all—can provide his family of eight with about a month’s supply of rice, he added.
Chhorn Thoeum, 45, sitting among a group of about 30 women waiting for the supplies of rice outside the school grounds, said her family of nine would benefit from the rice that three of her children had just received.
Chhorn Thoeum said her family had run out of rice because they had sold much of their 1.2 tons of rice stock to pay back a loan that they had taken out to buy fertilizer.
The UN’s World Food Program school-feeding program, which was suspended in early May because of the high cost of rice, resumed at the school last week, headmaster Nheng Vorn said, and will continue until July 5, when schools shut down for vacation.
It is not known whether the WFP program will resume after the holidays.
With the school break running from August to October, the rice donated Thursday will be of much benefit for students and their families in the coming months, Nheng Vorn said.