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CAMBODIA: New changes at Don Bosco Kep help ensure that girls with physical disabilities have access to education

(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Technical School Kep/Hatrans, located in southern Cambodia, made changes to its school buildings and dormitories to ensure they are accessible for students with physical disabilities thanks to a grant provided to Salesian Missions from the Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) at USAID. The technical school also received funding to aid in the construction from Don Bosco Bonn and the Sawasdee Foundation.

Cambodia_DonBoscoKepDon Bosco Kep, which has 250 students, 40 of whom live at the school, began welcoming students with disabilities in 2013. School administrators knew that the campus was not as accessible as it could be for the new students to access all of their classes. Often disabled students would have to rely on friends for assistance in getting to classrooms on higher floors and into dormitories, making them feel like a burden.

With the USAID funding, in 2015 Don Bosco Kep made modifications to the school, including the installation of a solar-powered elevator with a walkway between two buildings, in order to reach four floors in the main building, and the construction of ramps to access areas for community gatherings. The funding also allowed for the outfitting of three bathrooms with accessible facilities.

Young women with physical disabilities in rural Cambodia are at high risk of living in poverty. The investment by USAID in Don Bosco Kep provides opportunities to numerous students who are ethnically and economically disadvantaged. The positive impacts are disproportionately felt by young women with physical disabilities who otherwise would be unable to access an education and achieve self-sufficiency as a result.

Valuing diversity, gender equality and education for all is a primary goal of Don Bosco Tech and Salesian education across the globe. In a recent USAID newsletter, Father Albeiro Rodas, rector of Don Bosco Tech, recalls a time when it was believed that only men could pursue certain occupations.

“When I opened the electrical department in October of 2012, male teachers thought it was an odd idea. One assumption was that girls were unable to climb ladders. I showed them photos of female electricians in other countries,” explained Fr. Rodas in the article.

The idea of inviting girls into the program took hold from then forward. The first year, five girls applied. They had to work hard to be taken seriously.  Father Rodas adds in the article, “The first female students showed that they were better in mathematics than their male counterparts. They were among the best students.”

Don Bosco Tech graduates close to 150 students a year. The primary goal is for students to obtain a stable long-term job after they graduate. Ensuring women have the same access to employment is still a challenge at times.

In the article, Fr. Rodas recounts a recent exchange with an employer, “The supervisor of a local company came to the school to look for new staff among the students getting ready to graduate and we gave him all of the student files. He went through them and took out all the girls’ files.”

After Fr. Rodas called the manager to assure him that the females were just as capable as the male students, the manager called one of the women in for an interview. She’s now working for that company.

According to the World Bank, poverty continues to fall in Cambodia. In 2017, the poverty rate was close to 14 percent compared to 47.8 percent in 2007. About 90 percent of the poor live in the countryside. While Cambodia has achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty in 2009, the vast majority of families who escaped poverty were only able to do so by a small margin. Around 4.5 million people remain near-poor, vulnerable to falling back into poverty when exposed to economic and other external challenges.



USAID Newsletter June 2018

World Bank – Cambodia