Rainy season floods pose a recurrent threat to Cambodia’s education and health sectors, frequently leading to the closure of schools and health centres, according to a recent report from the World Bank Cambodia. 

The assessment, published on November 21, highlights the country’s susceptibility to severe floods every five years, resulting in significant damage and hardship.

The findings recall that flooding in 2011 impacted over 1.7 million people, causing 250 fatalities and leaving 50,000 individuals homeless.

“Often, the implications of floods on the educational and health sectors are underestimated, yet these events can have enduring and serious consequences on human resources and productivity. The medical repercussions occur when hospitals are temporarily closed due to floods, potentially exerting a lasting adverse impact on children and future human capital,” the report stated.

The assessment specifically underscores a decline in teaching hours due to school closures caused by floods. This impact adversely affects students, contributing to an increase in dropout rates and hindering their ability to catch up with the school curriculum. Consequently, there is a concern that these students may enter the job market with a diminished quality of work in the future.

Khuon Vicheka, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, addressed the recurring issue of natural disasters in Cambodia on November 21. 

She stated that both the government and the ministry consistently recognise and address this issue. In an effort to safeguard and enhance the quality of education, the ministry, working closely with relevant authorities, especially local authorities and communities, has set up a commission that promptly monitors and resolves issues emerging in schools across each province.

Vicheka mentioned that the ministry has shifted the annual school year opening deadline to November 1 for over ten years, aligning with the end of the rainy season. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, general schools were initially required to open on January 1. However, considering the positive situation, the ministry has decided to allow schools to recommence classes on December 1 for 2023-2024 academic year.

“In response to this issue, the ministry has developed digital resources, such as videos and materials, for schools to download and use as homework. Additionally, we permit schools to implement teaching and learning support programmes, enabling teachers to assign homework to students during flood-related closures,” she explained.

Or Vandine, Ministry of Health spokeswoman, could not be reached for comment on November 21. However, health ministry routinely issues instructions and notices to the public and relevant authorities. These directives aim to guide individuals in safeguarding their health and lives while stating the importance of maintaining regular personal hygiene.