By Jan Jaap Kleinrensink, Country Director of Plan International Cambodia
A Cambodian saying puts it quite well that Tompang Snong Reusey, meaning bamboo-shoots or young bamboos grow up to be bamboos. The question is how to ensure that Cambodia’s young bamboos are healthy and ready to be strong bamboos in the future.
Despite all the hard work by the Royal Government of Cambodia as well as development partners, there are still young bamboos or small children left behind, being threatened by lack of early childhood care and development services – not appropriately equipped to be the next strong bamboos or leadership of next generation of the nation.
According to the latest available national figures, about 64% of children aged 5 are going or having access to preschool, while only 28% and 20% of children aged 4 and 3 respectively are.
For Stung Treng province, based on the provincial statistics, about 41% of children under the age of six are having access to the early childhood care and development services, and more than half of them are girls.
As underscored in the document, Thalabarivat and Siem Pang districts, at which Plan International is targeting, are among the districts with least access to the services. About 16% between three and under-six years old are going to state and community preschools supported by UNICEF and Global Partnership for Education. The remaining 83% do not receive proper care and stimulation learning, indispensable for them to reach their development potential.
Access to proper care and stimulation learning is a primary right of children – the young bamboos!
Thanks to the good cooperation with the government counterpart at all levels, continuing trust and support from donors, intimate partnership with local experts, and commitment of staff, Plan International is currently supporting 520 community and state-preschools and classrooms in three target provinces, namely Siem Reap, Tboung Khmum and Ratanak Kiri.
Most of the interventions are integrated with nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene so that the preschool-aged children are healthy, well concentrating and productive at the preschools. To our pride, over 1,500 parents are not only supporting the service at the preschools and stimulating learning at home, but also taking ownership with local authorities to sustain the work.
The Young Bamboo project being launched recently is made possible by the funding assistance from Engelhardt. Lasting for three years, until June 2020, the project will be implemented by Plan International Cambodia and partner organisation Wathanakpheap.
The intervention will promote integrated Early Childhood Care and Development service among the most vulnerable children, particularly indigenous ethnic minority, the poorest, most marginalised and those with disability in 20 deprived villages in Thalabarivat and Siem Pang districts of Stung Treng province.
Strengthening the service is key to achieving at least seven of the Sustainable Development Goals on poverty, hunger, health (including child mortality), education, gender, water and sanitation, and inequality. It thereby sits in a priority agenda of the Royal Government of Cambodia as well as the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports.
Globally, Plan International has been existing for more than 80 years and is now operating in 71 countries. Fifteen years old in Cambodia, Plan International is implementing its third five-year country strategic plan running until 2021. Centering on our vision to strive for a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls, our priority areas are early childhood care and development, child protection, water sanitation and hygiene, nutrition and basic education (including technical vocational education and training).
Without continuing strong cooperation with the government counterpart, donors, communities and partners, our journey would not have come this long.
(Photos taken by Ms. Ath Chhun Muoy)