The Rabbit School organisation has conducted classes for children with intellectual disabilities in Cambodia for over 20 years.
The school’s mission is to promote the rights of children with intellectual disabilities, as the organization believes that children have the same fundamental rights as their fellow citizens to a decent life, with dignity and equal access to education, whatever the origin, nature, or severity of their impairments.
Speaking at an event last week to mark the opening of seven new classrooms at a Tuol Kork primary school for intellectually disabled children, Khoun Vichhka, a representative of Education Minister Hang Chuon Narong, said, “Children with intellectual disabilities do not have ‘a mental problem’; they are the same as us, though they lack certain capacities. People should help them, and not discriminate against them,” Ms Vichhka said.
These schools help such children to learn as ordinary children; the main difference is that they require teachers with special skills. Intellectually disabled children can generally learn most subjects, but sometime have difficulty explaining things or communicating.
“When these children come to school, they can learn and interact with other people and talk. Some intellectually disabled children are able to develop normally because of the instruction they receive in this new school environment. And it also helps to reduce the workload on parents, who need to spend so much time with their children that they are often unable to earn a living,” Ms Vichhka added.
The government encourages all organizations in Cambodia who are working with disabled children to do even more, and urges parents to take their children to school, the ministry representative said.
In 2008, Cambodia had 192,538 people or 1.44 percent of the population. Of these 56.3 percent are male and 43.7 percent female. Children below the age of 18 accounted for 17. 72 percent.