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Ministry issues Valentine’s caution

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Youths buy roses from a flower vender in Phnom Penh in February last year. Hong Menea

Ministry issues Valentine’s caution

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport has issued guidance to all public and private learning institutions to teach students the true meaning of Valentine’s Day, an outside cultural event relatively new to Cambodia.

The guidance issued on Thursday says the ministry had observed in the past that some students incorrectly linked Valentine’s Day with irregular activities rather than love and encouraged educational institutions to set up positive initiatives in the community.

The ministry’s guidance added that public and private educational institutions must adhere to internal regulations on moral discipline by closely monitoring students’ attendance.

“The event is not a traditional Cambodian holiday, but over past years it has started to have more influence on Cambodia’s youth, with some losing their self-respect and [adherence to] Cambodia’s culture and well-preserved traditions,” the guidance reads.

All public and private educational institutions must therefore advise and inform students as to the real meaning of Valentine’s Day.

‘Future in their hands’

The ministry’s guidance urged public and private institutions to encourage their students to follow the “Friend Helps Friend” policy and work with parents and the wider community to prevent immoral activities.

Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha told The Post on Sunday that students should consider Valentine’s as just another day and come to school as normal. If possible, they should find work helping their communities to gain positive benefits for themselves and others.

He said the Royal University of Phnom Penh is to hold its 10th charity event on 12 January 2019, while Svay Rieng University will organise its fourth blood donation drive.

“Similar to previous years, education institutions have received advice from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and will abide by the ministry’s guidance,” Soveacha said.

He said that through the cooperation of all relevant parties, including students, parents and the media, the ministry had observed that misunderstanding as to the meaning of Valentine’s Day had decreased noticeably over the past few years.

“Students should remember that the future is in their hands, so they should be very careful when making decisions that could affect it,” he said.

Khim Phon – chief executive officer of NTC Group, the parent company of Sovannaphumi School, which has 27 branches and nearly 40,000 students, and other national and international schools – told The Post that students had misunderstood Valentine’s Day.

However, over the past three years the government and Ministry of Education had taken action to prevent students from indulging in immoral behaviour on February 14, while schools under NTC management used the day to further inform them.

“Sovannaphumi School uses February 14 to inform and strengthen students’ relationships with parents, friends and teachers at school. Our goal is to educate students that this is not a day to have partners. I have asked the principle at each school to talk with students about February 14. They should not misunderstand its meaning."

“So our students now have a better understanding of Valentine’s Day and show their love to family members and teachers and other students, and between parents and children. We talked to understand the culture [of the day]. They have got used to it and no longer misunderstand it,” he said.

Im Sothy, the executive director of the Youth Council of Cambodia told The Post that students were now better aware of the real meaning of Valentine’s Day compared to previously.

“I have met and talked with many of them. They told me they don’t pay much attention to Valentine’s Day,” he said.

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