According to UNICEF the adult literacy rate in Cambodia is 76%. This is naturally lower in the rural areas. The country is still recovering from the Khmer Rouge regime that tore apart the society the horrors and nightmares of those years are still vivid in the Cambodian memory. During the Khmer Rouge regime majority of the educated people were persecuted and executed in their attempt to create an agricultural utopia.
The Preah Dak commune which is partly located within the famous Angkor Wat temple national park is not different. The villages we visited so not have electricity or running water. Majority of the families sustain themselves from farming or working in tourism related jobs.
There are public schools all over Cambodia, including in the Siem Reap Province. However, to attend a school a family must provide for the uniform, a transportation to the school, the books and often pay additional fees and bribes that may vary for different reasons.
Many families in the Preah Dak commune cannot afford themselves to send all or any of their children to school. Unfortunately, even in 2017 child labor is a common thing in South East Asia and children as young as 4 years old are expected to help in the house, with the younger siblings, at the fields and by selling souvenirs to tourists next to the temples.
The Cambodian Child and Hope Association is operating 3 schools in the Preah Dak Commune (5 in the past) for 70-150 children in each school. The classes are given after 17:00 to allow children that have to help their parents to be able to do that and still attend school and get some form of education.
There are 2 classes that are given to 2 age groups; Khmer language and English language. More classes can be added with more funding of course. Everybody are welcome to attend classes, inclding children that attend a normal school where there are no English classes. We have also met young people in their early 20’s coming to the classes after work in order to improve their chances of getting a better job in the city.