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Garment factory literacy program will go on

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times Share:
Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO Representative in Cambodia, speaking at the workshop on literacy programs in garment factories. Chor Sokunthea

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and UNESCO commit themselves to expanding literacy classes for Cambodian garment workers.  SIPAR, a French NGO focused on reducing the country’s illiteracy rate, will expand its three-year program of literacy classes for workers and the development of libraries.

Sam Chantith, deputy director of the ministry’s Department of Non-Formal Education, praised the success of its in-factory literacy classes for garment workers that were initiated in 2016.  He did so while addressing the attendees of the workshop on literacy programs in garment factories held on Friday, June 15.

These classes allow the workers to study at the factory during working hours, but have little negative impact on production.   The employers see the need for their workers to be better trained and more knowledgeable.  A number of firms are interested in offering literacy classes and the ministry will cooperate with donors to expand to other factories.

Anne Lemaistre, UNESCO’s representative in Cambodia, said that employers must be the impetus to expanding the program.  “It would be good if they can expand from 10 to 15 factories per year.” She pointed out that a quarter of Cambodia’s 600,000 garment workers cannot read or write.  It will take several years to elimination illiteracy.

This is a long-term commitment for UNESCO, but its budget for expanding the program now sees more donors.

Hok Sothik, director of SIPAR, said that his budget for the next three years is about $700,000.  With the help of the ministry and UNESCO his NGO will create 16 more libraries at factories. “Most workers are from the provinces, so they are ill-educated.   Employers need more competent workers, so they want workers who can read and write.”

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