Fight Poverty with Free School Parking

A father taking his children to school in the countryside. Supplied

Khmer Times/Tin Sokhavuth
Tuesday, 22 December 2015

An NGO coalition is calling on Cambodia to outlaw paid parking at public schools as a way to reduce the expenses of poor families and combat poverty.

The Affiliate Network for Social Accountability (ANSA), the Khmer Institute for National Development (KIND) and the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) have sent a joint letter to the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport asking the ministries to cancel the parking fee at public schools. This move, they say, will help ease the burden of poverty by helping the parents of poor students reduce school expenses.

“Seeing the financial difficulties for students from poor families, especially in the countryside, our coalition of three NGOs … call on the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport to think about the possibility to totally cancel the fee of the bicycles parking in lots in public schools starting from this upcoming year of 2016,” said the NGOs’ letter.

Mr. San Chey, executive director of ANSA, told Khmer Times that his organization, KIND and IDEA had conducted a case study on the difficulties of poor families living in the countryside who send their kids to a school that is often far from where they live.

“The study showed us that children had to go to school twice a day. So, it is a heavy burden for poor families to pay the parking lot fee twice a day too,” said Mr. Chey. He added that even the ferries do not charge students from poor families when those students cross rivers to go to school.

However, a teacher at Bak Touk high school, Sin Sopheak, told Khmer Times that he was not 100 percent in agreement with the NGOs to shut down the paid parking lot in public schools because of security.

“The security is also a big concern for students who own bicycles. If nobody pays for the parking lot, the security guard won’t pay much attention to the parking lot, because they don’t get paid for that. So, the loss of bicycle should happen every day,” said Mr. Sopheak.

According to Mr. Sopheak, to solve this problem, the ministries concerned should divide the existing parking lots into two parts. One part should be for free parking lot; the other part should be operated as a paid parking lot.

“Some students want to pay to put their bikes in a safe parking lot. Some other students need a free parking lot because they couldn’t afford to pay for that,” added Mr. Sopheak.

Besides the fee of the parking lot, there is another bicycle challenge for students from poor families, and that is simply having a bicycle to ride. Experts say many children without a bicycle drop out of school because of that problem.

“If possible, the government should also create public transportation to bring poor children to their school. The cheap and easy way is to create a public tuk tuk – a kind of school bus – to bring those children back and forth to and from school,” added Mr.Sopheak.

Posted on: December 22, 2015 7:07 pm