In rural Cambodia more than 50% of girls are laborers, not students in school.
When the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, currency and private property were immediately abolished, and Cambodian city-dwellers were sent into the countryside to work in the fields. Under its leader Pol Pot, the regime attempted to violently restructure the country as an agrarian, communal society. During his nearly four-year reign, over 1.8 million Cambodians died of torture, execution, disease, exhaustion and starvation.
After years of warfare and strife, Cambodians are still at work clearing thousands of land mines, creating commerce, and reviving their culture. Cambodia experienced its first full year of peace after 30 years in 1999, and although vast improvements have been made in Cambodia with respect to previous decades, 80% of Cambodians still earn their living from subsistence farming, food processing or forestry. Permanent employment, electricity and drinkable water are extremely scarce in rural areas.
Nearly all educated Cambodians were executed during the Khmer Rouge’s brutal regime. By 1978, there were almost no surviving teachers, writers or scientists in the country—an entire generation of literate role models eliminated.
While 80% of Cambodians today attend primary school, only 32% continue on to secondary. Partially, this is due to widespread child labor including farming, scavenging, garment manufacture, sexual exploitation, fishing and construction. Half of all young girls and one third of boys work, and as a result the ratio of girls to boys in school is 1:3.
For girls in Cambodia, additional educational barriers exist, such as parents’ worries about over-educating their daughters—a potential handicap to marriage prospects.
The education system is also extremely corrupt. Pray for spiritual breakthroughs that will release a new freedom to learn and for resources that meet the needs of rural communities for education also.