I arrived in Cambodia on July 24th, four days before the election. This was my first experience witnessing democracy in Cambodia and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Some people suggested I wait until after the elections to go when the dust settled. Others said it’s the aftermath that will be problematic. I never would have expected that five months later I would be a witness to history.
The education system in Cambodia today is in need of major reform. Some of the challenges are well known. Students can purchase diplomas without the hard work that comes with learning. Teachers barely survive on a meager salary of $100-$150 a month (on average) and as a result are often forced to find other jobs to survive. Cheating during exams is common and widespread among students. Teachers are not adequately trained to educate students with skills that will help them compete in today’s global economy. As a consequence there is little trust and little hope in the education system today and very little respect for the profession of teaching.
What was once a noble profession has turned into a business where teachers sell school materials to students or take bribes to supplement their low income. However it was not always like this. There was once a time when being a teacher in Cambodia was one of the most respected professions in society.
On Sunday, December 8th, Phnom Penh kicked off the 4th Annual Cambodian International Film Festival (CIFF) with a wide selection of dramas and documentaries being screened across the city. With a mix of Khmer and international films, the movies featured are from seasoned directors such as Rithy Panh, as well as up and coming directors such as Neang Kavich, who directed the film “Where I Go”.
“Where I Go” is a documentary about 18 year old San Pattica, a Cambodian-Cameroonian who seeks to learn more about his father, a Cameroonian UNTAC soldier who was in Cambodia around 1992-1993 to help with Cambodia’s first elections. The film exposes racism in Cambodia as Pattica is teased for his dark complexion and called names like “monkey” by his peers. In one emotional scene, he is crying with his Khmer mother telling her “They despise me. They don’t see me as Cambodian” referring to his neighbors.