The Phnom Penh Municipal Department of Education, Youth and Sports is planning to transfer a Santhor Mok Primary School teacher in Phnom Penh to another facility for disciplinary reasons after it was discovered that he had been charging his students a monthly fee to attend his classes.
Hem Sinareth, director of the Phnom Penh municipal education department, confirmed to The Post on February 2 that his department and Santhor Muk Primary School management board had undertaken measures to initiate the transfer, though he declined to reveal the teacher’s identity.
“We can only confirm that the education department has taken administrative measures to change the [teacher’s] workplace, but we cannot identify [the teacher] as it is not appropriate to do so,” he said.
Ive Bunthoeurn, the parent of a student at the school, wrote in a Facebook post on January 28 that his daughter had been told by her teacher that she could not attend class if she did not pay for and attend the teacher’s extra study session and that she should go find some other teacher at another school.
As with other public schools, Santhor Mok Primary School does not require students to pay tuition and their enrolment is not contingent upon attendance at optional or additional classes taught by its faculty members for a fee.
Buntheourn said in his Facebook post that the cost for the extra class – referred to as the “teacher’s gratitude fee” – was 60,000 riel ($15) per month.
Bunthoeurn told The Post on February 2 that Cambodian society should not allow a person who only thinks about money and has no virtue to teach children.
“I want my kids to have a teacher with virtue who loves and understands their students and are only worried about curing their student’s ignorance with education,” he said.
Srey Neath, another parent from the school, posted on Facebook on January 30 that her youngest son – a Grade 6 student at the school – had also been asked by his teacher to pay 60,000 riel per month on the first day of class.
She wrote that when asked about the fee, the teacher responded that it was to show the parents’ gratitude to the teacher for taking care of and teaching her son.
“I paid the money because I didn’t want to waste time negotiating with the teacher. There is a lot more that the teacher said to me that I’m not even mentioning. I have no respect for this teacher at all.
“The teacher also asked for 20,000 riel to buy fans. What’s the rationale for buying new fans every year? I just don’t get it,” she wrote.
Some Grade 6 students at the school confirmed that the teacher in question had been asking for a fee to attend an extra class session and that they were told they could pay the full amount once per month or half of that every two weeks.
Reached by The Post for comment, one of the students said: “The teacher requires all students to attend the extra class and they couldn’t come to the regular class either without paying the extra class money.
“They have to pay 60,000 riel per month for the extra class. For Grade 5, it was optional and some students paid for the extra class and some didn’t go, but they said that’s not possible for Grade 6 students.”
Neither the principal nor the other teachers at the school would comment on the issue. But Preap Kompheak, director of the department’s primary education office, said he gave a presentation to teachers and parents about the laws and policies relevant to the situation at a closed-door meeting at the school on February 1.
“We did a presentation about what the law states and the legal procedures available to them. We briefly touched on the laws regarding education, the anti-corruption law, the general statute governing civil servants, the ministry’s guidelines and the education department’s policies.
“Our goal is to prevent irregularities in procedure and conduct like this from ever occurring or affecting Cambodian students,” he said.
Kompheak said there are different grades of punishment suitable to the severity of the offender’s conduct.
“First, how bad is the offence? It could be the case that all that’s required is to educate them and get them to agree to cease the activity. Another disciplinary measure is a forced transfer to another position and probably one that is less desirable.
“[We] could also freeze their salary and make them forego promotions for a period of time. And, of course, if the offence is a serious one or it is repeated then they will be dismissed from their job,” he said.
Education ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha told The Post on February 2 that in cases of policy irregularities in educational institutions across Cambodia, the school’s management board takes administrative measures to address those situations in cooperation with the education department, which oversees these institutions and acts as the ministry’s office for liaison.