In September 2016 I became a lecturer at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh where I now teach International Human Rights Law. This new extracurricular activity gives me the opportunity to share my knowledge with Cambodian students, to learn new things and to do something extra besides my work duties. I teach the young generation of Cambodians; a generation who, one day, will shape the future of this nation. Let me share with you my reflection on Education.
I spent over eight years at universities. From 2005 until 2014 with one gap year, I was enrolled as a student at four different universities. I had this privilege guaranteed by European countries to gain access to knowledge completely free of charge. Because of this, and thanks to great teachers and professors that I met, I could significantly change my material situation.
A system purely based on merit is rather unhelpful, if the neediest cannot afford Higher Education. Here, only the best students benefit from scholarships. However, do the best students really need help? In many cases, they are the best because their parents provided them with the best environment to study. They do not have to work, count every penny, or spend a lot of time by commuting. Instead, they have all the materials, books and time necessary to perform well.
Free Education would help to provide a level playing field for all. No scholarship can ever replace the benefits of free Education. I never considered myself to be the brightest or smartest student in class (and I never benefited from high-paid scholarships), however, I obtained my master degrees thanks to the facts that Education was gratuitous.
My parents never studied. Only my mom finished upper-secondary education with the possibility to pursue the education at the university, which she never did. She was part of a socialist society that needed new hands to work as soon as possible, at best at the age of 18 and to work in the factory or an owned company for their whole life. My father, even if a locksmith by profession, told me one thing that I believe changed my life, that continuously motivated me to work hard, which was that “what you have in your head, nobody can steal”. Indeed, acquired knowledge cannot be stolen by anyone.
I was very lucky to be born in Europe, where Education is an important part of our society, our daily life. All countries across Europe, wealthy or poor, offer the tools to learn and study for free. Beyond doubt, Education is not only a right; in Europe, it is a freedom. And therefore, I feel in the bottom of my heart, that sharing this knowledge with others is part of our obligations. I mean here sharing the knowledge with students who were less lucky than me for instance by being born in Cambodia…