Very often we get this question: Is it prudent to teach IT in schools and other centers of education for children in Cambodia? Of course, questions like this come from benefactors of humanitarian organizations or their leaders. We can find benefactors open to donate books, computers and Internet access, but some leaders show hesitation over the idea of teaching IT to Cambodian children.
There are many objections:
‘Orphans or children coming from very poor communities and rural areas, should not be involved in a sophisticated world like IT. When they finish such courses, they will crush to the reality of their difficult context.’
‘Computers and Internet still a luxury in a country like Cambodia.’
‘We don’t have enough IT instructors or persons prepared to conduct the development of IT in our centers.’
There are also many possibilities and the debate is open:
It is true that a child or a teenager from a very poor community will find difficult to ‘return’ to the reality of his/her environment. But it is precisely what education is about. We intend to improve not only the standard of life and dignity of a single individual, but his/her environment too. Education is a question of nonconformity with the current status quo. Education is, for this reason, one of the main seeds of a real and sustainable development.
We don’t need a child, teenager or youth passing through our educational centers, schools, technical schools, orphanages, care centers and even things like detention centers, to return to the communities to continue as nothing did happen to their lives. It will be a lost of time and resources.
We need active agents of change, ready to open the doors to information and knowledge, there, in the rural areas, cities, slums, indigenous communities. Only in this way there will be a positive change and not a simple action of benefit for a particular individual without a social impact.
The Internet keeps as much as risks as the mass media or the children going alone to school. Then, it is our duty to know such risks and elaborate a plan of action to educate child and teen users to prevent such risks.
An IT plan for an educational center must contemplate that child and teen users should not stay alone in their IT process, but they must be guided all the time by an IT instructor. Students under 18 years old are the responsibility of parents and educators, so their behavior online. It is like teaching a person to drive a car : the instructor is always there.
We should see opportunities on IT. Every opportunity has its risk too.
Computers and Internet still of limited access to most of the population, but this objection is the reason why we need more benefactors inside and outside Cambodia to support the efforts to break that digital gasp. Donate computers, IT laboratories, books and other IT devices to schools, especially orphanages, rural schools and educational centers in impoverished areas. Do not forget to donate electricity access too (solar panels, generators…)
The scarcity of local IT instructors is another reason why we need more support. You can donate a computer laboratory, but include also the instructor. In the cities there are IT schools and universities with several young people that could join projects in Cambodia. They will need more formation, so we need to create scholarships for them.
The other good option is foreign volunteers with IT sensibility and formation. How many expatriates in Cambodia could join projects if only they knew they could do so or they were invited.
IT formation can be integrated to most areas of development. From prevention of social evils (see in Cambodia human traffic, drugs, child labor, domestic violence, HIV, malaria, landmines…) to agriculture development improving the life condition of farmers.
Let us open books and computers to Cambodian children and teenagers with a thought formation master plan and we will prepare a new generation ready to bring their country up.