When school closures happened across Cambodia in Mid March, PLF had 50 students at University in Phnom Penh, scattered across various Universities all over the city. Because of an existing structure of having Uni Teams and contact persons in each team, it was fairly straightforward to get in immediate contact with all of them and one by one set forth a strategy.
41 of the students immediately returned home and they are now scattered across Siem Reap Province, in their home villages with their families. PLF Paid them their April living stipend so they could return home with a bit of cash to help families.
Nine of them had very good reasons to want to remain in Phnom Penh; most are starting their final semester and have begun internships/jobs that will be important for their future employment, some of them have no way to access online classes that are being provided in their home villages, a couple of them literally have nowhere viable to return to. Those nine remained in Phnom Penh. They have no school fees currently but PLF is maintaining their living stipends, having raised it slightly to cover rising food costs and the necessity for expensive hygiene supplies.
For these nine, remaining in Phnom Penh during Khmer New Year (Government had instituted a travel ban across Provincial Lines to discourage holiday travel) was particularly painful. Khmer New Year is the most important holiday in Cambodia with an absolute requirement that families be together and pagoda rituals be observed. These nine had to mitigate that reality and stay on point; we understand fully that hardship and we’re very proud of them.
The 25 University students who were studying in Siem Reap were easier to manage; all students came to PLF HQ to pick up hygiene supplies and some cash and went home for the duration. They too have school on pause and stipends suspended for the duration.
To those who are sponsoring University scholarships, be aware that the Scholarship Fund is on PAUSE. These scholarships will end later than they should have, depending on when school resumes, but no additional expense will be incurred on them. PLF is covering the months of these additional stipends for the Nine remaining; if it carries on until next school year, we will find “creative ways” to cover the $6500 expense without impinging the Scholarship Fund.
Four of our remaining students have sent us through a small video each talking about their new ‘isolation learning’ and how they are feeling during this uncertain time.