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Financially strapped private schools request quick reopening by gov’t

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
The Aii Language Centre temporarily closes its doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic. KT/Pann Rachana

Private education service providers have welcomed the government’s decision to conditionally reopen the nation’s schools, but have also called for transparent, fair, and acceptable terms with the Ministry of Education’s reopening criteria.

Pech Bolen, President of Westline Education Group and also President of Federation of Education Services in Cambodia, told Khmer Times that it is a good sign the government has decided to reopen schools in July or August.

“If all schools can reopen in August or September, it will help the private schools generate an income and pay wages to their teachers. But if closures are prolonged until November, some private schools could face a serious financial crises or even permanent closures.

Ros Soveacha, spokesman for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), said that the reopening schools will be divided into three rounds. The first round, the ministry will allow only to open a high-standard of safety school, second round is the medium standard, and last round will go to all standard schools.

“For the first round, the MoEYS will work with all relevant stakeholders; especially, the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Economy and Finance, to discuss the health and safety measures as well as the socio-economy. While shortly, the ministry will announce the date for the first round opening – this will be done by the end of the week,” Soveacha said.

The government has not detailed the criteria of a high-standard school, but it is involving with some international schools like International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP), Southbridge International School, Northbridge International School and other well-known international schools.

“I think the government should allow all schools in July or at least in September because if we delay until November, it will affect the teacher’s salary on the pay cut as the schools to sustain the operation,” Bolen said.

“It has now been four to five months, with some staff having their wages cut from 30 percent to 60 percent and some even laid-off. So, if it continues, it will severely affect both the economy and the future of students,” Bolen added.

Mengly J Quach, Chairman and CEO of the Mengly J Quach Education, who operates Aii Language Centers (Aii) and American Intercon School (AIS), told Khmer Times that his school is not in the list to open in the first round as the government said.

“If the government allows my schools (AIS) to reopen in August and September, it will not help anything as our academic year of our American Intercon School (AIS) will be resumed in mid-October. However, if they (government) announced to open all the schools, our Aii Language Centers (Aii) can start in July, it would help to sustain the financial flow and staff, so we can get 50 percent of the income back,” Mengly added.

The reopening of the high-standard international school was because the opening day of those international schools begin in July and August. While, the public school will begin the academic year in mid-October. Therefore, if the government allows to open public schools for now, it does not make any sense as they are still in a break.

“If the government aims to open the schools in August, they should give the sign to the thousands of private schools to prepare to open the school, and they can arrange their financial flow,” Mengly added.

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