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Report on the Cambodia Study Tour at the Kiin Festival


A presentation on the Cambodia study tour conducted as part of the Practicum for Convivial Global Society was given on November 9 at the Kiin Festival Academic Presentations. Two groups gave presentations on fieldwork themes; one covered (1) children’s lives, education, vocational choice and poverty, and the other discussed (2) health, agriculture, information, politics, and poverty.

Taking poverty as the overarching theme, the groups presented observations and analysis drawn from fieldwork research on the sub-themes chosen by each of the study tour members.

Presentation by the children’s lives, education,
vocational choice and poverty group

The group addressing children’s lives, education, vocational choice and poverty gave the following report regarding education in rural areas.

・There are now schools even in rural villages and poor regions, and because there are no school fees, even poor children can go to school. In fact, school enrolment rates are rising. However, quite a lot of students drop out midway through junior high school.
・This is because they need extra lessons to pass their exams, but these lessons need to be paid for, and because teacher salaries are low, resulting in education quality issues. In addition, even if a child works hard and gets through junior high school, in rural villages it is thought that the only jobs available will be in agriculture or factories, or working away from home, all of which are low-paid, and if so, people think that there is no point making the effort to graduate.

We found out the formula that we came up with in the preparatory classes, whereby children would use education to break out of poverty, did not work for Cambodia’s rural villages and poor people. One major problem identified in that regard is that children are given no hope for the future.

Presentation by the health, agriculture,
information, politics, and poverty group

The group addressing health, agriculture, information, politics, and poverty gave the following report.

・Cambodia has a system called ID Poor that exempts poor people from medical fees, but it is left up to the village head to decide who can get the cards indicating ID Poor eligibility, so there are some cases where poor people cannot get cards despite being poor and also cases where people do get cards even though they do not fall into the “poor” category.
・Doctors and nurses at public hospitals and health centers also run their own clinics, and sometimes patients going to public hospitals and health centers are treated for a fee at these clinics. This means that doctors and nurses prioritize treatments at their fee-charging private clinics, with the result that patients exempted from medical fees under the ID Poor scheme can’t receive proper examinations.

It was clear from the two groups’ presentations that while Cambodia might have systems in place to support the poor, problems with the operation and functions of these mean that the poor are not in fact receiving enough support. The lack of tax revenue to underpin the salaries of teachers and doctors is also a major issue.

While reflecting the voices of the people in politics will be one important element in remedying the above situation, the grim reality in Cambodia today is that with the biggest opposition party now dissolved, the country is being run under the governing-party authoritarianism, and that the newspapers, which play a role in criticizing the status quo, are being forced to discontinue operations.

The study tour enabled us to learn many things that can’t be found from books, including the harsh facts noted above. Reporting at the Kiin Festival was an opportunity to share these issues and insights with a wider audience.

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