… Today I have a great pleasure to return to the Royal University of Laws and Economics (RULE) after my previous visit in June 2005. In the name of the Royal Government of Cambodia and in my own name, I would like to express my appreciation and thanks to our graduates, one group is scholarship and another is fee-paying students, who have made efforts in their studies in the past years. I wish to also express my sincere appreciation to their parents and spouses who have saved money and time for those graduates to keep studying till they finally finish their studies today.
I wish to take this opportunity to also express my sincere thanks to the Ministry for Education, Youth and Sports for making every effort in leading education sector throughout the country, especially its attention paid on the betterment of quality education after the secondary school education. We have just heard HE Kol Pheng, Senior Minister and Minsiter for Education, Youth and Sports, giving you his recommendations after your graduation to pursue your career. I also thank HE Yuok Ngoy, the Director of RULE for his report in relation to your education.
I am glad that in the past ten years I have come to RULE eight times — once on August 6, 1996; again on September 8, 1997; on May 2002; on April 26, 2003; on June 25, 2003; on June 29, 2004; on June 15, 2005 and today for the celebrations of graduation and inaugurations of building C and D in 2002 and 2004 respectively. I have noticed that the number of graduates from RULE have increased from 296 in 1996 gradually to 1161 this year. The reason for such an increase is because the state Universities have been allowed to accept fee-paying students in addition to those who attended on a scholarship basis. It is a positive thinking among others to get as many students as possible to attend the post secondary school education.
We have done the same for other state Universities take for instance the Royal University of Phnom Penh for the same reason. We used to have between hundreds of graduates each year and that has gradually changed year after year because of the policy of responding to fee-paying students demand in addition to sole scholarship. In addition to this we have implemented the policy of allowing the establishment of private universities and education institutions from kindergarten to tertiary level of education. This is a two pronged policy as one prong provides education access to the increasing number of students and the other to get the Universities to think of self financing in that matter.
According to the report we have here, in addition to the 1161 graduates today, we have 9951 students in their school years – this means that the University has enrolled in all a sum of over ten thousand students. This is a good sign for our human resources development program for the country’s development demand. Some Universities also take their presence in other major provinces with more students enrolling there too. Last week the Cabinet conducted a meeting about the establishment of a center for hydrology and meteorology. HE Minister for Water Resources and Meteorology expressed his concern about training in this field and HE Minister So Khun (Posts and Telecommunications) who formerly was director of department of hydrology of the Ministry of Agriculture suggested the reason why no one is interested in taking up this study. His argument was that they would have a hard time to find a job with this knowledge. He said those who finished their studies in this field would be instructed in their line of duty to oversee canal digging, dam making which make them dislike the subject.
This is an issue to be resolved. If we were to get the Royal University of Agriculture to introduce this curriculum, and perhaps the College of Agriculture in Prek Leap as well, we should go about thinking of their career development. At the same Cabinet’s meeting we discussed a proposal to set up a University of Defense. By all means we would see that the University of Defense would enroll more students because studying in the University of Defense would mean they study not only defense but also informatics, finance, etc. Those who finished their studies would be recruited in the Ministry of Defense and also in private sector. They would be eligible person for leadership because the University would train them to be a leader, like what we know about the US Military Academy at West Point. Those graduated from the Academy were recruited by many private companies into their management level.
However, what concerns me most is the fact that we would have difficulties in enrollment for hydrology and meteorology. We are in the process of speeding up agricultural sector — take for instance bio-agricultural sector in the form of training people to know about new seeds, soil preparation, and compost making through an agricultural extension with participation from our people.
Taking this opportune moment I would like to give in addition to the recommendations made by HE Senior Minister Kol Pheng that some of you might have jobs already before coming to study and some maybe self-employed as we have here only 219 scholarship students while 942 are fee-paying students. No matter what sort of students you may be you all may agree with me that to get your study finished at the tertiary education you have to go 18 years (12 years in the general education, 4 years to get a bachelor and two years for a master). During the time you devoted to study, your parents and spouses are working hard in order that you have time to concentrate on your study. Tomorrow we have this 16-day Campaign against Violence on Women and Children and we will see to how we go about that in real life. Issue of gender would also be brought into discussion in this span of time.
I wish to have your attention on three situations – 1) the partiality in favor of son and against daughter in the course of taking up education. In addition to study, daughters are obliged to help with family work while sons are allowed to play or enjoy themselves. In poor family with many children, daughters would be responsible for looking after their younger ones. When they are grown up their parents do not allow them to go to school away from home. Most of them dropped out at the primary level. That is why we have built more schooling facilities closer to their homes; 2) parents would pay similar attention to sons and daughters and we should try to promote this group of examples. We also have group 3 which would not allow their daughters to do anything at all. They have been made idle by their parents’ attitudes, especially those in the urban areas. Their daughters do not know even how to cook. Though this is still a small group, we should try and fix this problem before it is getting out of control.
There have been incidents that youngsters – young girls from the above category included — drove cars in race and caused problem to public order. At the time of the water festival, we have many people to manage in Phnom Penh. At that time we had about 3 to 4 million people to get into Phnom Penh. The Municipality of Phnom Penh has taken serious responsibility to keep security and public order and they deserve our appreciation and thanks. In the last two weeks or so there was a rumor that there was a move to replace the current Mayor of Phnom Penh. I wish to react to those who got this information on publication that if we were to do so you may not know in a long advance as such, because two days is enough for this to be done. You should pay attention to your career as writing something untrue could result in the damage of your journalistic career.
We now get back to seeing that more libraries need to be built as for these students to go to library at the Royal University of Phnom Penh is a bit far. That is why we raised a sum of 350,000 to build a library in the College of Boeung Trabek where the cornerstones have been laid already so that our students who do not have access to information resources to do their research and to access internet resources for research from distance. My argument to have four priority areas from 19 years ago continues to be correct. As the President of the Council of Ministers in 1987, I announced four areas of priority — 1) water 2) roads, 3) electricity and 4) human resources. Though we have more priorities to be added to this number, the four basic priorities are still intact. We need to address the need for more electricity especially as we have the hydro-power at Kamchai on the move, no matter who would give their contrary arguments.
We have to pay attention to the betterment of human resources and it should be covering two important and inter-related areas – education and health. I wish that you all wait to hear from the adoption of the national budget in the near future. Education makes up the most budget – about 20% more than the armed forces. The reason is because we have the need for more teachers and there are up to 3.5 millions students. During his recent visit to Cambodia HE Roh Moo-hyun, President of the Republic of Korea said to me while seeing many students standing along the street to greet his arrival that they are the most important resources and it is in line with our planning budget to give them the most part.
One more priority area is healthcare because one could go to study and/or work only if one is in good health. It is with this in mind that we have pushed for a change in the effort against diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Dengue, Malaria, Bird Flu, etc. This year the Kingdom of Cambodia has been welcoming many foreign guests ranking from the head of state, government to the head of the Parliament. In a few days we will be hosting the visit of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, etc. Also in just a few days we will host the visit of the former President of the United States of America – Bill Clinton to discuss about HIV/AIDS issue. It is indeed important so to speak to invest in human resources because to invest in gold mine, one day it will run out of gold, but to invest in human resources we will only have better brain and will never dry out.