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Cambodia Study Tour Report


The Practicum for Convivial Global Society Cambodia Study Tour took place from September 14 to 22, 2019. Ten students participated: seven first-years and three second-years.

Before departing, we attended approximately 10 sessions comprised of preparatory classes and a safety course held from June to September. We learned about Cambodian history and the background to the Pol Pot era, and discovered the current situation in Cambodia through various types of statistics. As well as a lecture by an international cooperation expert from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and a lecture on using meta-facilitation in dialogue with people in the developing world, we deepened our understanding by reading an array of literature and discussing them amongst ourselves. Based on these preparatory classes, our research themes for field studies ranged widely from education to child-raising, health, and politics.

Home visit in Kampong Cham province

On the first day of the study tour, we departed from Narita Airport and stayed in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. We were all highly interested to find it much like Japan, with tall buildings and heavy car and motorbike traffic. On day two we moved to Kampong Cham province about three hours travel from Phnom Penh. We visited a market and a temple, saw Kizuna Bridge, and had a look around the town. Kampong Cham province is the second-largest place in Cambodia, and the streets were pretty and prosperous. In the afternoon we held a meeting ahead of the interviews at people’s homes that we were to begin conducting the next day. We confirmed our respective themes and made preparations to ensure that the interviews were productive.

From the third to the fifth days we interviewed a commune chief, health center representative, elementary and junior high school principals, and people in their homes, and we also visited schools. From the commune chief we learned about the commune as a whole; we heard about the health management and insurance system within the commune at the health center; and the principals gave us an overview of their schools and explained the rates of students going on to higher education, going on to work, or dropping out. Going into homes, we heard first-hand from people living in Cambodia about a whole range of aspects of their lives, including education, health, government systems, and social media use. We met people who had dropped out of school or been unable to receive proper medical care because of financial reasons, and we also heard that cheap wages were preventing improvement in teacher quality. My impression was that government systems still have a way to go.

Visit to AAR and WCD

On day six we visited a wheelchair workshop and heard from Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR Japan) staff about their work to support disabled people. In Cambodia today, apparently just under 60 percent of disabled youths between the ages of 15 and 19 have never gone to school. To change this, the AAR staff are providing support to enable all disabled children to attend local schools, including promoting education for disabled children and putting resources into inclusive classroom facilities. The AAR staff also said that if disabled children from poor families become able to attend school, then this should also open the way for other children from poor families to do the same. In the afternoon we visited a vocational training school, touring the facilities and talking with disabled people. The facilities were excellent, providing an environment where disabled people could focus comfortably on their work.

Interacting with CJCC students

On day seven, we visited the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC) at the Royal University of Phnom Penh and mingled with students studying Japanese there. It was an instructive few hours, discussing matters like education and politics. In the afternoon we visited JICA’s Cambodian office and learned about the problems which Cambodia currently faces and about JICA’s work. We also heard from a Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer currently working in Kampong Cham as a nurse. She taught us that rather than imposing a Japanese approach, it was important to think about the background and why things have become this way. On our last day we visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum housed in a former Khmer Rouge detention center in the Pol Pot era, as well as the Central Market. At the museum, we saw photographs and pictures telling the story of what it was like at the time and saw the isolation cells. We were able to experience with all our senses a level of horror and cruelty that could not be understood without actually going to the site. At the Central Market, we had a pleasant time watching the merchants in action and doing some shopping for souvenirs.

In the short period of a week, we were able to visit various places, talk with many people, and deepen our thinking. I learned that there are many areas needing work, with students dropping out of school, teacher quality not what it should be, and inadequate systems in place for the poor. Seeing and hearing so much over the course of the tour really widened my perspective. I am grateful to have had this valuable experience, and to everyone who was involved with the tour, and I look forward to making use of my experience in my further studies.

(Momoka Nakajima, 2nd year student,
Languages and Culture Department, Faculty of Letters and Education)

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