PHNOM PENH – Close to 5,000 poor families are receiving cash scholarships this school year in Cambodia under a pilot scholarship programme launched by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) and the UN World Food Programme.
The pilot is part of the school feeding programme supported by WFP since 1999 and implemented by the MoEYS, which benefits close to half a million schoolchildren in food insecure communities across the country
Reaffirming the solid partnership and the commitment to the programme, on 22 February H.E. Im Sethy, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports visited the school feeding programme in Kampong Thom Province. He was joined by WFP’s Country Director Jean-Pierre de Margerie, H.E. Sann Vathana, Deputy Secretary General of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, and a delegation from AusAID.
AusAID is one of the most consistent donors to the school feeding programme in Cambodia - providing over US$1 million in annual contributions-and a strong supporter of the Government’s social protection drive.
The delegation attended a cash scholarship distribution where H.E. Minister Im Sethy personally handed over cash entitlements to poor children in grades 4 to 6, where the risk of dropping out of school is the highest.
“One of the main challenges of achieving universal primary education is the high drop-out rate. We need to support poor families and encourage parents to keep their children in school. This programme has great potential in this direction,” said H.E. Minister Im Sethy.
Taking children out of school is a common negative coping mechanism used by poor families in times of hardship and shocks. A regular food or cash transfer provides an incentive for parents to keep their child in school.
"Cambodia has made significant strides in improving enrolment rates in primary schools. Ensuring that children receive the support they need to stay in school and complete their primary education is a priority and WFP is pleased to support the Ministry of Education in working towards achieving this goal,” said WFP Country Director Jean-Pierre de Margerie.
Scholarships fall under the new National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) launched by the Prime Minister on 5th December 2011, and could become part of a national “safety net” to protect the poorest from the impact of shocks.
While the food scholarship programme reaches almost 65,000 poor primary students, the pilot cash scholarship component targets close to 5,000 poor children, who receive $5 per month. MoEYS and WFP, in collaboration with the World Bank, are evaluating the impact of cash and food scholarships, which will also help to inform the design of a national primary school scholarship policy, foreseen in the national Education Strategic Plan for 2013.