In October, 20 at-risk youth – the first group of students in the remote Cambodian provinces of Kep, Takeo and Kompot – 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.
Currently 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. The Design and Web House, instead, 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.
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. “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.”