Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Five Child-friendly Consultation Rooms in Kampong Cham Offer Children A Safe Space To Open Up

A child-friendly consultation room at a school in Kampong Cham province. (SCI)
A child-friendly consultation room at a school in Kampong Cham province. (SCI)

To ensure children have a safe and private space to discuss issues affecting them, Save the Children in Cambodia (SCI) and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) have set up child-friendly consultation rooms in five schools in Kampong Cham province.

SCI program director Mot Sana said the rooms allow children to share their concerns with teachers, child protection focal points and trusted adults.

Maintaining confidentiality is crucial in creating a safe environment for children to share their concerns, he added.

The project is supported by Eliminate Violence Against Children in School (EVACiS), which is funded by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We hope that the rooms would make children feel safe and give them the opportunity to promptly seek support from adults without hesitation,” Sana said.

The rooms demonstrate the significance of having child-friendly consultation rooms in schools, he remarked, expressing hope that the practice is replicated in other schools to allow more children to seek support.

Sou Sear, director of Thlok Chrov primary school located in Kang Meas district, told CamboJA that the project, which was recently implemented there, is “very important” for 350 female students at his school, who are facing various issues including family problems and bullying. This would help them “share and discuss with focal points to find solutions and encouragement”.

“I think that the rooms would benefit female students, their families and the community, more so for young girls who experience violence at home, and harassment. They can share the problems privately and seek solutions,” he added.

Tith Sreylorb, 25, a focal point of a child-friendly room in that school, said students can talk about any issues worrying them. There are two sections in the school’s child-friendly room. The first part is for consultation about mental health and the second part is for health treatment.

“Students can share their concern with focal points regarding domestic violence, bullying and harassment. Having this room is like a support system [for them],” said Sreylorb.

The project also encourages families and communities to think about children’s mental health which can be impacted by social problems, Sreylorb shared. If young students face problems, it affects their mental health and studies, and they might not be brave to share the issue with other people.

As a focal point, Sreylorb wants to see more child-friendly rooms in other provinces, as this could eliminate the percentage of students dropping out of school. It might also reduce violence in the family, harassment or bullying, and get everyone to care about children’s mental health.

“Previously, we never made an effort to care about children’s mental health where they could be affected by violence, bullying or harassment. But when we start to think about this issue, we learn that some students drop out of school because of these problems,” said Sreylorb.

According to SCI, there are 43 primary schools in the province of Kampong Cham that have implemented the EVACiS project in the last three years. The project is significant in the effective functioning of child protection systems, including reporting mechanisms in schools and communities.

Chan Sophea, director of the Primary Education Department of MoEYS, acknowledged the critical role of child-friendly consultation rooms as part of child protection and child reporting mechanisms in schools. It is in line with the national policy and the fourth strategy of the child-friendly school program.

“MoEYS hopes that child-friendly consultation rooms would be used and continue to be a safe place for children, and that other schools would share their experience from future implementations,” he said.

Kamegai Einosuke, second secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia, believes that the consultation rooms would help students speak up about their concerns regarding violence with trustworthy people and seek help. 

“I believe that these rooms represent yet another ‘bridge’ between us that will

further strengthen our relationship in the future,” he said.

A survey conducted by SCI in the beginning of the project in 2022, targeting 43 primary schools, revealed that 30% of the students had experienced some form of violence in the previous month.

Violence against children can have devastating consequences that may affect them for the rest of their lives. Such violence also contributes significantly to school dropouts and negatively affects learning outcomes. After implementing the project for one year, another survey showed that the prevalence of violence had reduced to 22%.

A 12-year-old grade six student and head of student council at Thlok Chrov Primary School, said her school’s child-friendly room helped to raise students’ knowledge on child rights and how to protect themselves from violence.

“I’ve noticed that most students understand children’s rights, how to protect themselves from risks, and how to report [problems] in school,” the student added.