Cambodia has fully entered the Year of the Tiger, and the country’s youths are now looking for the upcoming year to bring more opportunities in education and employment and allow them more chances to participate in social development.
“Today our young people sometimes do not have good jobs, or are jobless, and this causes problems in society on their graduation from university,” said Samreth Phoumy, a 20-year-old psychology student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, as she prepared for her holiday last week. “So, I want to see more job opportunities and the increased attention on them in the New Year.”
Cambodia has a burgeoning population of youth, and while many remain mired in poverty, a growing number have found routes to education, social development or politics.
Take Khe Longmeng, 23, a volunteer for the Youth Resource Development Program, who sat with friends last week discussing the New Year.
“I would like the government to strengthen the education quality and technical skills, especially computer-related, because if we look at our country, people in rural areas are hardly educated,” he said. “Even in 2010 already, some do not yet know how to use a computer. It’s the 21st century now and there has already been a lot of development in the field.”
Khe Longmeng said he wanted to see fair and just application of the law, regardless of the societal rank or status of an individual, and more youth participation in local commune development.
“It is an important factor because only active participations of all relevant stakeholders can boost a country’s development,” he said.
Cheang Sokha, executive director of the Youth Resource Development Program, which works with nearly 300 university students on community projects, said last week that young people need a specific structure to ensure their increased participation in national development.
“It is a challenge that there has not been much youth involvement in social development today,” Cheang Sokha said. “Has our education system encouraged youths or instilled in them the social will to build peace or reduce corruption?”
Sun Chansen, president of the Khmer Youth Association, said she expected the New Year to bring the drafting of a national youth policy, a government plan that “is crucial for both the youths and the government.”
The plan will be a “compass,” she said, “directing both to ensure the country’s prosperity.”
The first draft of the National Policy on Youths was first made in 2004 by the Ministry of Education’s youth and sport department, and it is now under discussion there. An official on the draft committee said the plan will be put forward for discussion later this month, a 10-point plan that includes the promotion of quality education and youth participation in social development.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said officials are paying attention to the needs of youth and creating jobs for them by brining in foreign investment, or sending workers overseas.
“This is also a part of job creation, because some skills that students have learned here do not fit with jobs in Cambodia, but outside the country,” he said.