ACT NOW: New nationwide back to school campaign promotes safe COVID-19 behavior for the 2021 school year
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A teacher and her students at Wat Bo Primary School, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Credit: GPE/Chor Sokunthea
A teacher and her students at Wat Bo Primary School, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Credit: GPE/Chor Sokunthea

PHNOM PENH, January 11, 2021 – Today the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS), supported by UNICEF, launched a national back to school campaign to encourage Cambodian children to return to classrooms while practicing safe behavior to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As the new school year starts, and with COVID-19 still a global challenge, this campaign will be crucial in making school environments as safe as possible. The campaign also aims to reach those families and children whose education has been most disrupted by the pandemic, encouraging them to prioritize learning despite the challenges.

The campaign is themed “Act Now” and will reinforce proven safe behaviors around COVID-19, as well as other cross cutting messages to make schools safe, healthy and a flourishing environment for children. These messages are captured in creative videos, posters, radio spots, and text messages that will be broadcast across the country. Some materials, such as flyers and games, will be printed for children to take home, ensuring the messages engage families and communities in fun and playful ways. In addition, an illustrated booklet for teachers and school principals featuring safety guidelines, checklists and tips has already been produced and delivered to all 16,500+ schools so that teachers can start the new school year fully prepared.

“Our priority throughout the pandemic has been keeping children safe, while also doing all possible to maintain their education. We’re proud of the Cambodian Government’s efforts in keeping infections amongst the lowest in the world, while also ensuring distance learning was available for all students,” said H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport. “Now that the new school year is beginning, we want to get the message out very clearly. We want children to return to school and parents to prioritize their children’s learning, knowing that we are working hard to protect students from the virus. Children and parents also need to play their part, by following the guidelines that this campaign promotes.”

The campaign is funded by the European Union and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). It builds on the campaign the Ministry and UNICEF launched in September 2020 to announce that schools were re-opening after a six-month closure, a highly successful effort which was also funded by the same generous donors.

Her Excellency Carmen Moreno, the European Union Ambassador to Cambodia said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major challenges for the education sector, putting severe strain on students and their families. While online learning has been introduced under the strong leadership of MoEYS, it can never fully replace classroom teaching, and is not accessible to all. All children should therefore be encouraged to go back to school and feel safe when doing so. I therefore call on everybody – directors, teachers, students and parents alike - to take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe school environment for all”. The Ambassador also expressed her appreciation for the EU-Cambodia strong partnership in the education sector, which started more than 15 years ago, contributing to the implementation of the national education reforms with the aim to ensure access to quality education for all the Cambodian children. She finalized by saying: “Education is a basic human right and essential to ensure a prosperous future for the country and its people”.

“The pandemic has made it especially difficult for children to stay engaged in learning,” said Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education. “While distance education has offered some continuity for learning, there is no replacement for the interaction between students and teachers. GPE’s support will help the Government of Cambodia to safely reopen schools so that children are protected from COVID-19 as they return to in-person learning.”

The campaign has been designed to reach teachers, parents and caregivers, and children and young people. All assets will be inclusive, with translations into the four minority languages spoken in Cambodia. As well as being broadcast through mass media, key information and assets will also be disseminated through targeted use of messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger. UNICEF will make all assets available to its partners in the Cambodian education sector so that they can use and adapt them as they see fit, ensuring maximum/ impact across the country.

“Cambodian children have experienced serious disruptions to their education over the last year, and many have lost out on learning,” said Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia. “As we move forward into 2021 and reimagine a post pandemic world, it is vital that we work together to keep schools as safe as possible and avert an education crisis. The pandemic has also brought about opportunities to use technology and innovative ways for teaching and learning, and for building back better an inclusive education system for all. We believe this creative campaign will connect with children, families and teachers alike, inspiring confidence in the safety of schools and reaffirming the value of education for every Cambodian child.”

The campaign has been designed by the Melon Rouge Agency in collaboration with MoEYS and UNICEF. All campaign materials are available on UNICEF Cambodia Website.

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Notes to Editors:

About UNICEF

UNICEF in Cambodia works to promote the healthy development of children, to defend their rights and help them fulfil their potential, from early childhood to adolescence.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook.

About CDPF

Known as the Capacity Development Partnership Fund (CDPF), the program is a partnership between the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport in Cambodia (MoEYS) the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF. Through a pooled funding mechanism, CDPF provides support to implement capacity development priorities for the education sector. The CDPF entered its third phase in 2018, which will continue until June 2023 for a total amount of approximately US$32 million. This new phase builds on the successes of the previous two phases, implemented since 2011.

About the European Union

The European Union is a political and economic union between 27 European countries. The European Union is Cambodia's second biggest trading partner and, together with its Member States, one of its largest development cooperation partners. Over the years, European Union has worked closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia, contributed to country’s development agenda, reducing poverty and promoting economic prosperity. European Union programs take place in a wide range of areas, including education, agriculture and natural resources management, governance, human rights, public finance management, trade, private sector development and climate change. The European Union Delegation in Phnom Penh represents the European Union in its relations with the Cambodian government for all matters within European Union jurisdiction.
Follow the European Union Delegation to Cambodia on Facebook.

About the Global Partnership for Education

GPE is a shared commitment to ending the world’s learning crisis. We mobilize partners and funds to support 76 lower-income countries to transform their education systems so that every girl and boy can get the quality education they need to unlock their full potential and contribute to building a better world.

For more information, please contact:

  • H.E. Dr. ROS Soveacha, MoEYS Spokesperson, Tel: +855 78 755 556 or e-mail: soveacha2002@yahoo.com
  • Pok Poun, Press and Information Officer, European Union Delegation to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Tel: (+855) 12 347 716 or email: pok.poun@eeas.europa.eu
  • Tamara Kummer, Global Partnership for Education, +33 7 82 26 07 18 tkummer@globalpartnership.org
  • Rudina Vojvoda, Chief of Communication UNICEF Cambodia, Tel: +85523260204; ext=434 or email: rvojvoda@unicef.org
  • Mr. Bunly Meas, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Cambodia, Tel: +85512733 909 or e-mail: bmeas@unicef.org
A teacher and her students at Wat Bo Primary School, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Credit: GPE/Chor Sokunthea
A teacher and her students at Wat Bo Primary School, in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Credit: GPE/Chor Sokunthea
East Asia and Pacific: Cambodia | European Union

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