Education to freedom

20 Nov, 2013 | Cambodia
OM International
A typical school day in Cambodia starts at 7 am and finishes at 10:30 am, be it for kindergarten or university level students! Children are encouraged to work in the afternoons, so as to help support their families. OM Cambodia believes that additional tuition is essential if this generation is to become competitive in the global market, and so the living expenses of 35 children and youth is taken care of by OM Cambodia so as to encourage further studies in the afternoon.
“Our children at the centre don’t work–unlike other children in Cambodia,” said Joseph Lee, leader of OM Cambodia. “In Cambodia, all children are only expected to attend three hours of school a day, whether they are in kindergarten or at university. The other half of the day is reserved for work.”

Cambodia still bears the scars of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that took many lives in the late 1970s. Once a thriving financial hub with much promise, the country was left literally in shambles after the Khmer Rouge soldiers fled the Vietnamese invasion.

Two million people were forced to move to the countryside to take up work in agriculture, and many intellectuals, city-dwellers, minorities and party members suspected of being traitors were brutally killed.

A Khmer Rouge slogan stated: "Study is not important. What's important is work and revolution." As a result, public schools and pagodas were turned into prisons, stables and warehouses. Many people still live mired in poverty in spite of the progress the country has made, and corruption is still rampant in society. Education is taken lightly by most, and few resources are made available for public libraries.

With a desire to raise the next generation of national leaders, Joseph and his wife have spent the past eight years running a children’s home and youth live-in centre in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Thirty-five children and youth currently receive lodging, food and education from the day of their arrival until they marry, as long as they meet the passing grade criteria.

In the mornings, they participate in extramural activities, including English and computer lessons, and in the afternoons they attend the local school. They live and learn in an orderly Christian community where biblical values are imparted, and where they are required to study hard for their future.

“OM Cambodia's emphasis on education for children and youth comes with the long-term objective of raising the next generation of Cambodian leaders who will influence lives for Christ,” said Joseph. “We hope that some of these children will rise into positions of influence and affect godly change in this nation. After all, who is best equipped to reach the nation of Cambodia but the Cambodians themselves?”

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