What’s happening in Cambodia? How are the 600 young people of Ta Pen coping? Here, we reply to some of the questions you have been asking.
The situation in Cambodia
The rapid spread of COVID-19 affects us all and has not spared Cambodia, which has closed its borders. Although the number of confirmed cases is, according to official figures, still very small (122 cases as of 16 April, 30 of which were French tourists travelling in the region of Ta Pen!), constraints have been firmly placed on the movement of the population. Schools have been closed since 16 March. The celebration of the Khmer New Year has been cancelled by the authorities and travel restricted at provincial level.
Impact on the Ta Pen school
All the children have stopped their studies and returned to working in the fields to help their parents. We do not know for how long. Before the school closed, the primary and secondary pupils received training from our partner, Bandos Komar, on COVID-19 and the precautions to be taken to protect themselves (and their families) and stop the spread of the virus.
For the moment, all our Cambodian colleagues, friends and pupils are in good health. Many of you have been asking about them and they are extremely touched by your sense of solidarity. The school’s employees and teachers are being paid in full for the moment. We will reconsider the wage policy of Don du Choeur at the beginning of May in line with the current situation.
Impact on the “postgrad” students
Our students studying at the high school in Bakong and those following professional training at Siem Reap have all returned home to their parents in Ta Pen after having successfully completed their first semester. We congratulate them all!
During this period, we will no longer finance their schooling but will keep their lodgings in town so they can pick up their studies again as soon as the schools reopen.
Impact on families
As you know, the standard of living of rural families in Ta Pen still remains very low, even though it has increased significantly over the last few years thanks, to a large extent, to the presence of the school. The demand for agricultural products (in particular mangoes, which are cultivated everywhere in Ta Pen) has taken a big hit because of the closure of hotels and restaurants. Tourism has ceased. If this crisis is prolonged, Ta Pen risks falling into a survival economy.
In this difficult situation, we wish to stay close to our most vulnerable families. We are distributing produce from the school vegetable garden to them to supplement the rice being offered by the State. We will also assist families whose children have to be hospitalized.
The Ta Pen school plays an important supporting role for families in difficulty and is helping to prepare for a careful lifting of restrictions … whenever that might be.