Cambodian councils cooperate to provide community with school

A group of students sit at desks in their classroom at Tuol Pongro secondary school in Banteay Meanchey province in northwestern Cambodia. UNDP/Chansok Lay
Students attend class at Tuol Pongro secondary school in Banteay Meanchey province in northwestern Cambodia. (Photo: UNDP/Chansok Lay)

Several years ago, Soy Pheap, a 39 year-old mother of seven, was forced to make a tough decision; send her daughter away, or forfeit the young girl’s education.

Until recently, Pheap’s village, part of the Tuol Pongro commune in Banteay Meanchey Province in northwest Cambodia, lacked an adequate secondary school.

To allow her daughter to continue studying, Pheap had to send her to live with her grandmother in Battambang Province, 130 kilometres away.

Highlights

  • The Inter-Commune Cooperation project is working to strengthen local governance in Cambodia and better serve rural communities.
  • The project produced and broadcast 43 shows with diverse topics including commune elections in 2012, voter registration and voter list revision for 2013 national elections, traffic accidents, land disputes, land mine victims, as well as other topics of local interest.
  • ICC projects have built roads, bridges and schools in remote communities and respond to women's needs and environmental issues.

But thanks to funding from the Inter-Commune Cooperation (ICC) project – supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – Pheap no longer faces a dilemma to keep her family together.

Tuol Pongro village now has its own brand new secondary school, which opened its doors to local students in January 2011. Since then some 170 boys and girls have enrolled and the school is expected to enroll as many as 200 additional students from surrounding villages for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Having a school nearby means Pheap’s other daughter can finish her education without leaving home. In the past, many children from Tuol Pongro commune made a round trip of 16km to attend the nearest secondary school. But the distance was too great for some and they dropped out to herd cattle or work in the rice fields with their parents.

The secondary school was built following the initiative of the ICC, which brought the Tuol Pongro commune together with neighboring O Sampor commune to pool resources and development plans to jointly serve both communities.

The two communes were awarded US$37,820 from the ICC fund and were able to collect an additional US$300 from village contributions, allowing them to build an initial four classrooms.

“When we knew that there was a fund available from the Inter-Commune Cooperation, our two communes worked together to request for the fund,” said Kim Morn, chief of Tuol Pongro.

The site of the school was a strip of land that had been newly cleared of mines by the Cambodia Mine Action Center (CMAC), which is supported by UNDP and partners. 

The communes also received a donation of US$70,000 from a Japanese humanitarian group, Cambodia Mines-remove Campaign (CMC), which allowed them to build six additional classrooms and outfit the school with a toilet, water tanks, desks and other supplies.

The ICC is a pilot project, also supported by the European Union, that links together a network of local councils across Cambodia.

The project is part of a larger “Strengthening Democratic and Decentralized Local Governance” initiative, which has been funded by the EU and UNDP since 2006.

It has been implemented in 54 of Cambodia’s 171 districts and the Government is considering integrating the project into its national policies for local governance.