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Poor Students Truant as Classes Begin

With primary and secondary schools opening their doors for another season, poor students find themselves in an annual bind. Without money to proffer their underpaid teachers, they fear they will be flunked, or beaten.

Students at public schools unofficially subsidize their teachers's salaries according to the educational levels. In primary school, the students pay between 500 to 1,000 riel.

"When I have no money, I don't dare go to school," second-grader Poch Srey told VOA Khmer Monday. "I am afraid the teacher will hit me."

Cambodian Independent Teachers Association President Rong Chhun said teachers had no choice but to take money from students, given their low salaries, which do not always come on time.

"The stomach situation forces them," he said. "Even when the government increases [the salary] 20 percent in 2008, it will not be able to sustain life."