*This is a small preview of the exhibition: "I Want to Study". It will consist of 42 photos in total, with additional text detailing these six young Cambodians' stories.
The exhibition will be held at META HOUSE in Phnom Penh on the 15th of August, 2019 - opening at 6PM. The exhibition will go for one month.
“I Want to Study”
The first few times I visited Cambodia, I was stuck by how happy the children seemed. They were always smiling, waving and saying hello to me, no matter where I went and no matter how tough their situation seemed. The more closely I looked however, the more I realised just how tough the life of a child in Cambodia can be, especially where education is concerned.
Approximately 98% of Cambodian children now attend primary school, which is a huge achievement, but only 55% make it to secondary school and a mere 10% study at tertiary level. Maths and literacy levels are often below standard and the drop-out rates are very high, particularly in urban-poor and rural areas.
Some of the main reasons for drop-outs include, family migration, financial pressure, high delinquency rates, low teaching standards and poor teacher attitudes towards children with disabilities.
Financial pressure on families is one of the biggest issues where drop-outs and delinquency are concerned. This is further exacerbated by teachers imposing ‘informal fees’, where they charge students to attend regular classes, or hold back information which forces students to attend their ‘extra classes’, that require payment. Extra classes also mean students have to stay at school for much longer, which puts additional strain on students and families. Informal fees can add up to $50 a month for each student and when you consider a teenager can earn $120 a month in unskilled employment, it’s understandable why many drop out.
Despite all the challenges that Cambodian youth face in education today, one main thing stands out above all, and that’s their sheer determination and willingness to succeed. Fortunately, there are some mechanisms in place that allow student success, or at the very least, student participation, but clearly far more needs to be done.
The project “I Want to Study”, began two years ago. It looks at six young Cambodians from lower socio-economic and disadvantaged backgrounds and the challenges they face on their path to becoming educated. They represent a small cross section of Cambodian society, but more importantly, give a face to the real human issues that confront Cambodian youth today. They show us that people are far more than mere statistics, and that education and young lives really matter.