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Friday, November 11, 2011

2,000 Schools Remain Closed


Schools hit by floods in Cambodia's Pusat province.

Some 2,000 schools in Cambodia remain closed as the worst floods in more than a decade continue to wreak havoc in Southeast Asia, where the death toll has risen to 1,000, officials and reports say.

Most of the affected schools are along the lower Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, said Nhim Vannda, the first vice-president of the National Committee for Disaster Management.

Only 2,000 of 4,000 schools nationwide have reopened since the floods hit 18 provinces and cities in early October, officials said.

Nearly 250 people have perished in the floods in Cambodia so far, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest flood bulletin.

“We are very concerned about the students' education. I am afraid that they can’t finish their curriculum on time,” said Yoeung Rithy, chief of a village in Kompong Thom province on the banks of the Stung Sen river.

Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association President Rong Chhun said even while some schools remain open, their classes are delayed due to logistical problems.

School equipment has been damaged and documents destroyed due to the disaster, he said.

“The Ministry of Education must establish a supplementary curriculum for the students to make sure that they can finish their academic year as usual,” Rong Chhun said.

Ministry of Education Director Ung Ngohok said additional classes would be held to prevent affected students from falling behind in their studies.

"The government has also instructed the Ministry of Education to make sure that the students have enough time to prepare for their examinations," he said.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has provided U.S $300,000 to help subsidize educational materials in flood-affected areas.

A Ministry of Education report obtained by RFA showed that there are still 900 schools in 15 provinces under flood waters.

Some of the schools where the floods have receded may not have resumed classes because the damage has not been rectified.

Climate change

At least 1,000 people have died in the region's floods, according to an Agence France-Presse tally on Thursday. Millions of homes and livelihoods have also been destroyed by the disaster.

The World Bank warned that climate change will bring more floods and extreme weather to Southeast Asia.

"What we are seeing is there are more floods, more extreme weather events, higher temperature, more variable rainfalls, and we believe that is caused by climate change," Andrew Steer, the World Bank's special envoy for climate change, said in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

"And we should expect this to increase, sadly," Steer said.

The death toll in Thailand, grappling with its worst floods in half a century, has reached 533, the government said, and the slowly advancing waters are now threatening the heart of Bangkok, a city of 12 million people.

Vietnam's government has reported at least 100 deaths, including many children, in southern and central parts of the country while a fresh deluge in central provinces prompted the evacuation of some 30,000 people.

At least 106 people have died in flash floods caused by heavy storms in central Burma in late October.

In Laos, 30 people lost their lives in the floods, OCHA said in a statement.

The U.N. body, which does not include Burma in its flood updates, also reported 98 deaths in the Philippines.

Vast swathes of rice paddy fields have been damaged or destroyed in Southeast Asia as a result of the inundations triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains that began some three months ago.

"To date, nearly nine million people have been affected by torrential rains and overflowing rivers," OCHA said.

Reported by RFA's Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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