CAMBODIA: Students Launch Future with Technology, Design Skills

KEP, Cambodia (October 4, 2011) - The first group of students in the remote Cambodian provinces of Kep, Takeo and Kompot is set to connect with the world – and connect others with it as well.

In October, 20 at-risk youth will begin their professional education in internet technology and web design at the new Don Bosco Technical School and Web House located in the National Park of Kep.

"Our goal is to expand professional opportunities to poor students in rural areas. Students will learn about communication, web development and audiovisual production. Our goal is to have students use their skills to produce web content for the local market and to give every Cambodian and foreign business in the community the opportunity to go online and increase their markets," says Father Albeiro Rodas.

According to UNICEF, 40% of people living in rural areas are poor compared with 10% in Phnom Penh and 25% in other urban areas in Cambodia. More than 74% are employed in agricultural activities.

"We know that there are many Cambodian households who do not have access to a computer, and that our percentage of internet users is` one of the lowest in the world. But Cambodians are highly interested in technology. For example, our students may have never used a computer, but they know that it is going to be an important part of their future. We see this as an excellent opportunity to train students to be on the cutting-edge of what the job market will require," adds Father Rodas.

According to the Cambodian Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications statistics, there were 173,675 internet subscribers in Cambodia in 2010, up from 29,589 subscribers the year before.

Currently the Design and Web House offers services in e-commerce websites, PHP-based forums and boards, plain HTML websites, customized blogs and installation of server-side scripts and content management systems. Content may be written in English, German, French, Khmer, Spanish, Dutch and Thai.

The Design and Web House is part of the Don Bosco Vocational Center which serves students with very limited access to professional education. Because of this limited access, many young people leave the area without job skills to search for work in Phnom Penh.

While the school is opening with 20 students, work is already underway to open additional facilities in 2012. Plans include the completion of the first art school for underprivileged youth in the area.

Father Rodas stresses the need for additional educational opportunities throughout the region.

"We see that as the Cambodian population is growing, so too is the social inequality gap," says Father Rodas. "As our country's economy expands into technology and tourism, we have to make absolutely sure we are not leaving out youth from rural areas and underprivileged urban communities."

Since arriving in Cambodia, Salesians have partnered with the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Education to open a total of seven vocational training centers. Approximately 1,300 youth ages 16-21 are preparing for their futures in one and two year vocational training programs in Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, Toul Kork, Teuk Thla, Battambang, Kep, and Poipet.

The Salesians have a long history of teaching job skills to youth in Cambodia. Through the United Nations, they began providing technical vocational education to Cambodian refugees living in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border in the late 1980s. Then in 1993, at the invitation of the government of Cambodia, the technical School in Phnom Penh was established to republish, translate, and write books and educational documents that were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime. It contained the only working printing press in the country – and served as a model of hope through education.

Learn about more missions supported by Salesian Missions in Cambodia.