Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throw Back Thursday – Looking Through The Archives

By Luka D'Amato

The cover image is a diagram used to determine 
light requirements for different classroom setups. 
The schematic was part of the construction manual 
created by the then Ministry of National Education, 
with technical support from UNESCO Bangkok and UNICEF, 
and was used in constructing new classrooms. 
© UNICEF Cambodia/2017/Luka D'Amato

Today is Throwback Thursday, which means it is time to look into our archives for something special. UNICEF has a long history in Cambodia, and we want to share with you some of the things we have accomplished in the past. After digging through our records, we found UNICEF’s first annual report in Cambodia, published in 1974, as well as some photographs from throughout the years. Take a minute to read about what the UNICEF office did in its first year in Cambodia!


In November of 1973, UNICEF opened its first country office in Cambodia. Roughly one year later, the office wrote its first annual report. In this, now historical document, UNICEF analyzes the situation of children in the country, determining how to dedicate their resources in a time when battling factions had left many without homes or sustenance. The authors note the Khmer people’s pride in and dedication to education, despite the ongoing conflict ravaging the country.

“The Khmer Republic has traditionally given a high priority to the development of this educational system. . . the Ministry of Education is given a high priority and is second only to the Ministry of National Defense in terms of personnel employed and third (after the Ministry of Finance) in terms of national budget allocation.”

A girl writes with chalk on the wooden wall of a classroom 
built with UNICEF assistance, in a camp for internally displaced persons 
in the western town on Sisophon. ©UNICEF/5891–1992/Roger Lemoyne

In the first year following the establishment of its in-country office, UNICEF responded to the educational needs of children by building or rebuilding 148 classrooms, publishing 350,000 volumes of primary school text books and 800,000 exercise books, also providing pens, pencils and erasers, as well as administrative and logistical support, and aiding in community education. UNICEF focused its efforts primarily on the rural areas that had been hit hardest by the influx of displaced children needing education.

“There is a real hunger for education at all levels in Khmer society, and even during this difficult period, the Government and people at the community level are willing to sacrifice their time and energy for the construction of schools. Most schools are operating on either two or three shifts per day, and there is a shortage of teaching aids and pedagogical materials. Thus the quality of education has been lowered, even for the limited number of children who are fortunate enough to have a chance to attend school.”

Schoolchildren learn about the dangers of landmines
during an awareness session supported by UNICEF.
©UNICEF Cambodia/1995/Ann Bishop

Cambodia has come a long way in the 44 years since the report was published, and its dedication to education remains strong. Every child has the right to an education, this was true in 1973, and remains true today. Cambodia has made significant gains in education, with more children than ever before enrolled in primary school, but unfortunately many children still do not get to complete their schooling.

Today, UNICEF continues to support education in Cambodia, although in different ways than we did 40 years ago. Our present focus is to strengthen the education system and to ensure quality and inclusive education for all children in Cambodia, especially the most vulnerable children, including children with disabilities and children from indigenous communities. As in the past, UNICEF works closely with government bodies, like the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, as well as NGOs and development partners to accomplish this goal.

You can visit the UNICEF Cambodia website to learn more about how we support education in Cambodia and our blog page for more stories about the efforts of teachers and community members to help build brighter futures for children in their society.

School under construction. © UNICEF Cambodia/Photographer unknown

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