Vientiane,13 August 2020 - The Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) announced today that Lao PDR has received a grant worth $7 million from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to help respond to and mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s education.
“This generous grant will strengthen the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as students prepare to start the new school year,” said Dr. Phout. Simmalavong, Vice Minister of Education and Sports (MoES), who attended the official grant signing ceremony along with Dr. Pia Britto UNICEF Representative; and representatives from the Australian Embassy, the European Union, Save the Children and other development partners.
In March 2020, all the schools and educational institutions – around 14,000, were closed in Lao PDR as part of the Government’s response to contain the outbreak. Although lessons were delivered remotely through platforms such as radio, television and online, and despite the best efforts of teachers and parents many students have remained out of reach. Children, particularly from vulnerable groups,were at the highest risk of being left behind. With no new cases reported in over a month, all children were back to school between May and June, on a staggered basis, to complete the school year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic affected the lives of children in many ways, including their education. It is critical to ensure that they have opportunities to continue learning and that there is prioritisation of schools in reopening plans as part of a larger strategy to build more resilient,equitable and universally accessible education systems. We cannot leave anyone behind. All children must have access to learning and have to be integrated back in,” said Dr. Pia Britto, UNICEF Representative.
As part of the agreement, UNICEF will manage the funding as a grant agent in coordination with the Australian Embassy as the GPE Coordinating Agency. Activities will be implemented under the leadership of MoES in close coordination with various development partners via the Education Sector Working Group mechanism co-chaired by MoES, Australia, and the European Union, as well as the Education Cluster mechanism co-led by MoES, Save the Children and UNICEF.
The activities funded by the grant are based on Lao PDR’s Education COVID-19 response plan, which outlines the actions needed to ensure the health and well-being of students and education staff, and support the continuity of learning.
The grant will support a mix of activities to reach children from all walks of life to ensure that Lao children and young people are not left behind in their schooling or exposed to a higher risk of getting sick.The activities include:
- Ensure learners, educators, caregivers, parents, and school communities are supported to prevent and control the transmission and spread of COVID-19 in line with national public health guidance.
- Establish provision of clean water, soap, and hand washing facilities in schools, particularly in high- risk areas.
- Continue dissemination of information on precautionary measures.
- Reprint textbooks and learning materials for students, and teaching materials.
- Strengthen alternative education platforms such as online learning platforms with offline access feature and production of education programmes on TV and Radio.
- Enhance the capacity of teachers and parents with skills needed to support children’s learning in and out of school.
“The COVID-19 pandemic necessitates the introduction of new ways of learning for children, teachers, parents and caregivers. This means support is needed for all concerned to adjust to the new norm. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that this does not replace being in school and highlights even more the importance of qualified, trained and well-resourced teachers,” stated Dr. Britto., UNICEF Representative, while acknowledging that as the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, “we all need to ensure that the education sector recovers, rebounds and re-imagine a better education for every Lao child”.
Lao PDR is among the more than 50 countries that received Global Partnership for Education funding to support with planning and implementing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
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