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Cambodian teachers deliver lessons to homes as digital gap threatens students’ rights

Nguon Sovan, Mao Pengfei / Xinhua Share:
A student watches as an educational video is aired on TV. KT/Khem Sovannara

Sen Vanna, a primary school teacher in a rural area in southeast Cambodia’s Tboung Khmum province, travels to teach his students at their homes every day after schools have been closed to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Education has encouraged students to study through provided online platforms or TV channels; however, Vanna said students in his area, about 67 km west of the Tboung Khmum provincial town, have difficulty accessing both the internet and TV channels.

With the advice from the provincial education department, Vanna and other teachers at the Hun Sen Chheuteal primary school in Peam Chileang commune of Tboung Khmum district, since earlier this month, began to travel to students’ homes to deliver lessons.

“In the commune, students can not study online because they do not have smart phones and the internet service here is very poor, while learning on provided TV channels is also impossible because of no signal,” the 64-year-old teacher told Xinhua via phone recently.

“Therefore, with the instruction from the provincial education department, teachers at the school have decided to travel to teach students at their houses in small groups,” he added.

Vanna, who is a fourth-grade teacher, said he had to drive his motorbike for about 20 km every working day to and fro between his house and students’ houses.

He first looked for houses that had enough space for sitting and then arranged four or five students to gather in one house as a group for classes.

“I teach each group for half an hour and then, I go to teach another group,” he said. “I can teach four groups of students for the whole morning.”

Vanna said he always practice good hygiene during each session, and both he and his students wear face masks and keep social distancing.

The teacher said he have more than 40 students, but not all of them have the opportunity to attend his teaching as some have to help their parents with farming at this time of year.

For Vanna, traveling a long way to teach from one house to another in different villages is undoubtedly tiring but, he said, it is his obligation as a teacher.

“This is my obligation, and I pity the students who have missed classes for months due to the COVID-19,” said Vanna, who has been a teacher for nearly 40 years.

Education Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said on Thursday that for students in rural areas who can not access online classes or have no TVs, they can gather to study, but the number must not be more than 10 and they must keep social distancing and follow health advice provided by health authorities.

The Southeast Asian country closed all academic institutions since mid-March to stem the COVID-19 spread.

Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron said in a letter recently that despite no new COVID-19 cases detected in the kingdom over the past month, schools would remain closed until November, when the new academic year begins, in order to avoid the virus spreading in communities and to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Health said on Saturday that all of the 122 COVID-19 patients in the kingdom have recovered, as the country has detected no new cases of the virus for more than a month.

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