Students fed despite school closure

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Poor students’ families receive donations of 25kg bags of rice in Battambang province in July. FACEBOOK

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has pitched in to help with Covid-19 relief efforts by distributing rice to over 13,000 students in six provinces as part of the government’s efforts to implement social protection policies.

Chuo Hok, head of the primary scholarship office at the ministry’s primary education department, told The Post on September 20 that the rice distribution fell under the umbrella of the school meal programmes administered by the ministry.

“The food is provided to students from poor and vulnerable families as well as school chefs living in areas with high food insecurity rates. They are suffering severely from the economic effects of Covid-19 because all primary schools in the target provinces remain closed.

“The main focus of this food provision is on guardians and parents of students so that they can continue to encourage their children to continue their education.

“Parents who choose to migrate [for employment], please do not bring along your children and keep the children at home or leave them with their relatives so that they can continue their education,” he said.

In a press release, the ministry said the provision of food to students from poor families and to the school chefs who were still out of work was coordinated by the general secretariat of the National Social Protection Council.

The rice was distributed from September 20-25 in the six target provinces of Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Stung Treng and Kampong Cham – covering 16 districts, 83 communes and 204 villages with 205 primary schools.

According to the press release, a total of 13,757 students and 536 school chefs from 205 primary schools will receive 25kg per person under the community-based school meal programme. Families with more than one child studying at the same primary school will receive 50kg of rice.

The ministry said the programme gave priority to poor students who had received scholarships from the government and students from families with IDPoor equity cards (Levels 1-2) and a valid priority card.

Phon Lat, a resident of Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district, said her brother had received the aid from the ministry and that authorities had called up the family to notify them that they should come to receive it.

“Due to Covid-19, some parts of Siem Reap are closed to the public. Nobody is doing business because everybody is afraid. The economic situation is extremely difficult and I don’t know what to do. Honestly, I’m now in a very tough situation and I’m completely broke,” she said.

Chuo Hok said he did not know when the food provision programme would end, but if the primary schools reopened and the school meal programme was implemented again, then the food programme distributing rice could be halted.

He added that that despite the closure of schools, the work of educating Cambodian children continued. In high-transmission areas, classes were still being held online and in less-risky locations teachers were assisting with small study groups on a daily basis.