A new incentive for children to attend school in the North of Cambodia has been developed by Samaritan’s Purse through the School Feeding Project. The Program sees hot breakfast being provided at 21 of the schools in the Malai District, giving over 4000 children a reason to leave home in the morning.
Facilitated by volunteers in the area and supported by the school’s staff, and local NGOs, the SFP is encouraging students to attend school by offering them a free meal prior to attending class – taking away learning distractions caused by hunger. It is also a meal that many of the students would otherwise go without if they stayed at home.
While education is the main incentive to keeping children in the North at school, another important factor is the region’s proximity to the border of Thailand. Children who do not remain in school are at high-risk of being sold into the sex slave trade and working in Thailand where this work is easily found. According to the program’s coordinator,
“The incentive of school breakfast allows the children to avoid becoming the prey of child traffickers, as they are in school learning and not in Thailand where they are more vulnerable.”
The overall success of the program has been observed in over 21 communities with the principal of Kampoul Primary School saying that it has “pushed them for schooling well,” and has also expressed how happy he is with the improved success of his students.
“The children like the food very much; in fact, just this small incentive of a hot breakfast is the main reason they come to school each day.” Said the program’s coordinator.
Additionally, the program has brought the community together, “One of the major accomplishments of the School Feeding Program has been to draw the community closer together as the school staff and community members have had to work closely together with the Samaritan’s Purse staff to implement the program successfully.”
Among the community’s contribution has been de-worming medication provided by the local hospital for all the children in the SFP. In April 2010 Salesian Missions Inc donated 14,000 litres of oil to the SFP, of which students get to take home two litres for their families and 120 ceramic water filters were also provided and placed in all the classrooms – as well as training for the teachers on how to use them.
There are still 29 schools that are going without this program, but with ongoing support it could be a reality throughout the whole of Cambodia’s Malai District.