Cambodia, Sweden, and UNICEF unite to protect education during Covid-19

Hun Sen Samraong High School is turning away new returnees as it is full. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth Sports (MoEYS), Sweden, and UNICEF are working together to urgently respond to the learning needs of students whose schools are currently being used as COVID-19 quarantine centers.

According to a joint press release, several schools in the border provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Oddar Meanchey have not been able to open on 11 January when the new school year began because they are being used as quarantine centers for Cambodian migrant workers returning from Thailand.

The 13 primary schools, 18 lower secondary schools, and 19 upper secondary schools are part of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s ongoing COVID-19 transmission prevention efforts. While the students of those schools are required to learn from home, MoEYS identified access to textbooks as one of the most pressing challenges and now UNICEF with funding from Sweden has produced new textbooks for 50 primary, lower secondary, and upper secondary schools covering Grades 1 to 12 in core subjects. In total, 35,055 textbooks are distributed to north-western provinces, helping 32,486 students to continue their studies.

Hang Chuon Naron, Cambodia’s Minister of MoEYS, said that the additional support from Sweden and UNICEF is welcomed for these schools and students in the border provinces. Despite the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing, all efforts to keep children learning must be made while also making sure that they are safe from the virus, the minister said. “That is why the provision of textbooks to affected students is a very important intervention to ensure children keep learning,”.

Björn Häggmark, Ambassador of Sweden to Cambodia, said that education is a fundamental human right, but COVID-19 continues to disrupt the schooling of thousands of children in Cambodia. “Sweden is glad to assist with this important emergency response, ensuring girls and boys on the COVID-19 frontlines have adequate learning resources to continue their studies,” he said.

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