Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) - The new Higher Institute of Saint Paul is "an impressive undertaking" it credits Catholic schools "in the university world", offering training to young people in agricultural sciences and information technology. Fr. Alberto Caccaro a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), years in Cambodia, welcomes the birth of the first centre of higher learning founded and led by the local Catholic Church. "Education in Cambodia - he explains to AsiaNews - is a huge market where there are cases of wrongdoing. An initiative of this kind is welcome. "
On 2 March, less than a year after the laying of the cornerstone the Higher Institute Sao Paulo was opened, strongly wanted by Mgr. Olivier Schmitthaeusler, the new coadjutor bishop of Phnom Penh, and realized through joint efforts of the Catholic Church in Cambodia. The centre is located in Takeo, 70 miles south of the capital (in the picture the bishop in front of the school under construction), and intends to become a "centre of excellence," said the bishop, "for all poor students, who do not have the financial means to continue their studies in Phnom Penh. "
The inauguration ceremony was attended by numerous Cambodian government authorities, including the Deputy Prime Minister, representatives of the Ministry of Education and colleagues from agriculture, together with the apostolic nuncio, Mgr. Salvatore Pennacchio. "Their presence - said Father Caccaro - makes clear how important the project is".
The school’s main aim is to train young people in agriculture and information technology and provides specific programs in collaboration with the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh, Ngee An Polytechnic and the Lien Aid Foundation of Singapore. Also thanks to funding from a benefactor to the Asian city-state, the Catholic institution has a library of 800 square meters and a main building consisting of 25 classrooms with computers and Internet connections, which will house about 190 students.
"The structure is very large - adds Fr. Caccaro - and offers the opportunity to take courses via the Internet, held in Phnom Penh. A similar situation applies for lessons hosted abroad and transmitted in real time in the institute”. Faced with the high cost of management, emphasizes the missionary, "the ambition of the project is remarkable."
Fr. Caccaro explains that "education is a colossal market in Cambodia today, with cases of corruption and speculation. "An initiative - he adds - of this kind, trying to figure out how to maintain the high quality of the educational proposal in view of the high number of students, is greatly welcomed." The priest states that the "real challenge" will be "quality, content, effective learning without shortcuts."
Finally, on 20 March in the Cambodian Catholic community will celebrate the ordination of Olivier Schmitthaeusler as bishop coadjutor of Phnom Penh.