LAOS, Aug 14 (Vientiane Times.ANN): The Global Partnership for Education is allocating a grant of US$7 million via Unicef to help respond to and mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on children’s education in Laos.
According to the Unicef Laos Office, the grant agreement was signed on Thursday between Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, Associate Professor Dr Phouth Simmalavong, and Unicef Representative, Dr Pia Britto.
The signing was witnessed by representatives from the Australian Embassy, the European Union, Save the Children and other development partners.
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 the Ministry of Education and Sports in close coordination with various development partners via the Education Sector Working Group mechanism co-chaired by the ministry, Australia, and the European Union, as well as the Education Cluster mechanism co-led by the ministry, Save the Children and Unicef.
The activities funded by the grant are based on Laos’ 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 will 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.
They will establish the provision of clean water, soap, and handwashing facilities in schools, particularly in high-risk areas, and continue the dissemination of information on precautionary measures. Textbooks and learning materials for students, as well as teaching materials, will be reprinted.
Other goals are to strengthen alternative education platforms such as online learning platforms with offline access features and the production of education programmes on television and radio.
An additional aim is to enhance the capacity of teachers and parents with skills needed to support children’s learning in and out of school.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Dr Phouth said “This generous grant will strengthen the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, especially as students prepare to start the new school year.”
Dr Pia Britto said “The Covid-19 pandemic has 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.”
“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, ” she added.
The Unicef Representative, while acknowledging that as the impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt, said “We all need to ensure that the education sector recovers, rebounds and we can re-imagine a better education for every Lao child.” Laos is among the more than 50 countries that received Global Partnership for Education funding to support the planning and implementing response to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Unicef Laos Office.
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