The Sixth SOS School since 2002
I would like to thank grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts, our compatriots for taking your time to participate in the inauguration ceremony of the Phnom Penh SOS Hermann Gmeiner School. HE Helmut Kutin and I may recall that in January 2010 in Battambang province we put into official use one of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools in Cambodia.
Here in Phnom Penh, I could recall also that we have secured a plot of land from the Phnom Penh Thmei Primary School for the construction of the (SOS) junior and senior secondary school. As is said by HE It Sam Heng, Minister for Social and Veteran Affairs, and echoed by HE Helmut Kutin (of SOS-Kinderdorf International and senior representative of SOS Children’s Villages), this is the sixth SOS School projects in Cambodia since 2002.
As is told by HE Helmut Kutin, and I would like to express my sincere thanks for donors of the project, this SOS Hermann Gmeiner School of Phnom Penh has been built with the financial assistance provided by SOS Germany of 100,000 USD. The school consists of one two-floor classroom building with 21 rooms, in which 12 are used as classrooms and the rest have been secured for a director’s office, a library, a study hall, a staff office, a lab for chemistry, a lab for physics, a lab for biology, a meeting room, and a computer lab, and another two-floor building that is divided into a performance hall for 300 people, an area for three kitchens and a dining hall. It is a well design that will address all the needs.
The Twelfth One in 2012 in Ratanakiri, Thanks (page 19)
Though the construction has taken longer time, because there had to be a compensation policy for teachers who have their residences here, than the one in Battambang, we still have this day of inauguration. Those it is called SOS School but it is open for public and students who finished their primary level education in schools nearby may also come here for their secondary education as well. So far we have similar set up of SOS Schools in Siemreap, Battambang and Phnom Penh.
You may have heard HE Helmut Kutin already that in January 2012, in Ratanakiri province, we will have one more SOS School and it will be the twelfth one of its kind. Weather then could be chill unless there will be a change. However, no matter what weather we will have then, peace and political stability of Cambodia will be there. Cambodian development will proceed and will not be deterred by change of weather.
Land Provided by Government, School Built by SOS money
I would like to take this solemn occasion to express my sincere thanks for the SOS-Kinderdorf International and HE Helmut Kutin for the efforts made in the past years in helping with students’ lodgments and studying facilities in Cambodia. As has been reported by HE It Sam Heng, adjacent to the school is the SOS children’s village itself. As we continue to have assistance (from SOS-Kinderdorf International and SOS Children’s Village) and based on experiences we have so far with the project, I would urge that where there is a children’s village (in Kratie, Prey Veng, etc.), there will be land available for construction of school.
In other words if we want to have (SOS) village for our provinces, we must be prepared to set land available (for SOS-Kinderdorf International and SOS Children’s Village) to carry out their projects which include both village for children and their school facilities that are for students in general too. SOS-Kinderdorf International and SOS Children’s Village will bring money in for the project but the Royal Government will provide its counterpart share of land.
Future Depends on Young Generation
I am so happy to see that today as well as in every other event we have the presence of scouts and Red Cross youth together with all other participants. Let me note here that the present and the future (of Cambodia) belong to (the Cambodian) younger generation. We on the podium will not live to be 100 years old or even we will, we will not be able to work. So the future of our country is in their hands – youths and children. This is calling for greater efforts in human resource development. We have done this job for the past 32 years, since after the liberation (from the Pol Pot’s genocide) on January 7, 1979.
We have built schools closer or within easy reach to our people for the sake of making positive change in human resource development. In 2010, we suspended demand for recruitment of staff in all sectors but we allowed normal recruitment of teaching and medical staff to proceed. While permission would be granted in the future for recruitment of only a limited number of civil servants, no reduction would be made to recruitment of teaching and medical staff. More children have reached their school ages that their number would lead to higher turnout that is going to be a pressure on higher level of educations, and all the way to university.
Not about Rich or Poor But Whether There is a Chance
I used to mention on various occasions that benefiting intellectually from education does not depend on whether one person is rich or poor or he or she is born to so and so family or caste. The central issue is whether they have (equal) chance (for education) or not. It is absolutely unapproved that children from powerful and wealthy are doing better in their studies. No one is born with gold and money with him or her. All are born naked. Take for instance HE Helmut Kutin here, he was an orphan in the World War II and adopted by the Children Village in Austria when he was 12 years old. Because of personal effort and help from generous people, he has become a valuable person not only for Austria but also for some 133 countries in the world though his works.
It is impossible to eliminate the state of being rich and poor no matter where in this world. In Pol Pot’s regime, we were told that everybody was equal in their society. However, we all knew from experiencing it that there were Angkar (top echelon of leadership) or slave masters and people in general. How could a society that develops on the basis of free market economy prove it otherwise? There are people of various classes and occupancies – workers, farmers, traders, businessmen, industrialists, artisans, etc. Therefore what needs to be addressed and ensured for our society is that the gap must not be too wide apart and everyone is ensured of equal chance for education, for instance.
A Glimpse of the Past
Take my life story for instance. It represents life stories of many people of my age who then had to leave the village and family for further education. I left my family for Phnom Penh as a boy to assist the Buddhist monk (it is normally called pagoda boy in Cambodia, for the service of assistance for the Buddhist monk, he would be fed, given bed and coached by the monk) when I was thirteen. Look, I am not the only pagoda boy you know. Many intellectuals sitting behind me are too. That is why I never forget my life as a pagoda boy and I have written a song about it.
Why did I have to go this and away from my family? Would it happen if there were schools in my area? That was one part of the situation. One other part was as youth in that time, the country fell into war. It was a general situation that school dropouts or continued education under threats of bombardments and shelling had been the case. You may find it a bit hard to believe but parents had dug trenches for their children to take shelter at school or wherever they studied so that they could save themselves from those threats.
It is therefore my firm and burning ambition to see no children of younger generations to suffer this fate of mine. It is out of this commitment that I have led effort of building school throughout the country. This effort was initiated since the liberation (of January 7, 1979) but has augmented vastly when we successfully implemented win-win policy that eventually ended war (with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia) in 1998. There will be no more such threats that would scare teachers and students as there used to be in the past.
Peace, Stability, Rights to Live Are Core
As of now you must agree with me that peace and political stability are the most important factors for Cambodia. Without peace, how could we protect our lives? Without our lives, how could we ensure democracy and human rights? If we were to leave our children live in illiteracy for lack of schooling facilities, how could anyone preach about freedom of expression? Let’s not pick up only one end of the whole matter. How could one talk about freedom of expression while one chooses to be silent on need for education?
Rights and freedom must stem out of rights to live, to have food, health and education, etc. They are an inseparable set. Since everything must start with being alive, we must try to avert death of all sorts, traffic accidents also included. In health, we have made huge investment that results in reduction of mortality rate among women and children, and also to a lesser extent death from generational diseases.
While we have successfully achieved our goal to eliminate polio case in the country, we are now in the process of moving towards putting an end to malaria. After I talked about it in Kompong Cham province, the Strategic Plan towards Putting an End to Malaria was placed on my desk. It has proposed 2015 for the plan to complete. However, the plan will need to be discussed and approved by the Cabinet/Council of Ministers. Investment in health is primary condition because in absence of health no one could sit and study.
Moving Secondary Schools Closer to Female Students
I already said a few things about equal chance for education. I would have your attention that with peace in hand, political stability and better infrastructures we have ensured equal chance for education for all. It is time for women to benefit from these chances. It has been customary that daughters or female in general are not allowed to go away from home or parental care for various reasons. Now we have brought to them, female students, junior and senior secondary schools. This is one in many efforts we have done for the sake of addressing gender issue.
Stay Away from Bad Things
I think it is now time for our children to benefit from so many chances offered. I would in this instance urge you strive not to be indulged into doing bad things that society does not appreciate. I urge you to stay away from drugs that the Royal Government has taken stern measures to do away with. I have assured you that no one, in whatever position and/or rank, would stand a chance to evade legal action. I urge younger generation to stay away from it as drugs will be destroying your future and life. In relation to this I wish you to note that now the Ministry of Interior and the sub-national level administration, under the leadership of the Royal Government of Cambodia, have made great effort to ensuring a functioning program of safe villages and communes.
I also take this opportune moment to seek further awareness of HIV/AIDS among our people and younger generation. HIV/AIDS is still a threat that is compromising no one exposing to it. However, Cambodia that was awarded with the UN Millennium recognition for having won a battle in stopping and bringing down HIV/AIDS infection has been doing a great job as the level of infection of HIV/AIDS has dropped and continue to drop./.