While some schools are still being used as quarantine centers, the majority of Cambodian students returned to the classrooms today after a chaotic year.
PHNOM PENH–Cambodia’s new school year 2021-2022 began on Monday (Jan. 11) as Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for a strict adherence to “the new normal in education” while emphasizing the greater need for embracing digital education amid the pandemic.
“Today is the new chapter of life for all our children who reach the studying age and those who have to resume their studies after we have gone through and gained experiences in education in different forms in the previous school year amid the pandemic,” Hun Sen said in a pre-recorded video address posted on his official Facebook Page.
“Even though we have been fighting against COVID-19 and there remains uncertainty, we will still celebrate this special occasion under a new vision of the new normal in education,” he added.
In commemorating the start of the new school year, Hun Sen also expressed his sincere thanks to all relevant stakeholders, especially teachers and educators at all levels for their effort to deliver lessons and enduringly support the education system during this difficult time.
In the same address, Hun Sen also called on stakeholders to continue promoting hygiene in education as well as retaining health measures such as social distancing in order to prevent the spread of the virus in schools.
He went on to say that his government would allocate money generated from oil extraction and production to the education and health sectors while instructing the Education Ministry to continue developing Cambodia’s education infrastructure by further integrating digital technology into education to cope with new challenges.
In response to the market demand, he also called on the ministry to adopt new teaching approaches and promote capacity building among educators. This, he said, will encourage students to study independently while fostering their knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
In a letter on the start of the new school year released on Jan. 9, Minister of Education Hang Choun Naron noted that there are adjustments in study schedule, including limiting number of students in classrooms.
According to Naron, classes from Grade 7 to Grade 11 will not exceed more than 40 students per class while the number of students in Grade 1 through to Grade 6 classes should be capped at 35 students per class.
Some schools along the border with Thailand remain closed due to pandemic
The Cambodian authorities has been using schools as quarantine centers for incoming travelers and other who have direct and indirect contacts with COVID-infected patients since late March 2020.
As the new school year begins, some schools in Phnom Penh and in Banteay Meanchey, Oddor Meanchey and Battambang are still not ready for the resumption of studies.
Speaking to Cambodianess on Jan. 8, Ros Soveacha, spokesperson for Education Ministry, said that the ministry allowed Hun Sen Borey 100 Khnang High School—one of the quarantine centers in Phnom Penh—to begin the new school year as the school has already been disinfected.
“A small number of schools, which have been in use as quarantine centers, have to be disinfected first in accordance with Ministry of Health’s measures and the Education Ministry’s standard operating procedure before the school year starts,” said Soveacha, adding that Hun Sen Pochentong Primary and Secondary schools remain closed.
“The students there can resume their study temporarily at nearby schools from Jan. 11,” he added.
In Battambang Province, there are eight schools which have been used as quarantine centers for migrant workers from Thailand following the community outbreak in Somut Sakhon in late December 2020, according to Khy Songky, the head of Battambang Education Provincial Department.
These schools can’t open yet, but they will gradually resume from Jan. 18 as workers finish their 14-day mandatory quarantine period.
“So, we keep at least two to three days for disinfecting works. Some other schools will be the same. Once there are no more workers quarantining, we can allow students to resume their studies,” Songky said.
He added that among the 6,000 students at the eight schools, some are required to undertake temporary classes at nearby schools while others continue to study online.
Meanwhile in Banteay Meanchey Province, 10 schools have been repurposed as quarantine centers, as have nine schools in Oddor Meanchey Province, but have since been allowed to resume academic operations.
Pailin’s Provincial Governor Ban Sreymom said that all schools across the province will open on schedule, explaining that all migrant workers returning from Thailand have so far been placed under quarantine in guesthouses and at the Cambodian People’s Party provincial headquarters.
According to the General Department of Immigration, a total of 4,415 Cambodians returned from Thailand between Dec. 20, 2020 and Jan. 6, 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak currently sweeping the country.
As of Jan. 11, Cambodia recorded 392 COVID-19 cases nationwide with 374 patients having recovered and 18 currently hospitalized.