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USAID and UNICEF team up to support schools reopening with essentials and information

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USAID, UNICEF, US Embassy officials and Phnom Penh provincial officials at the handing over ceremony. Supplied

The Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh, UNICEF, and U.S. Embassy leadership marked the distribution of key hygiene supplies, such as soap, hand sanitizer, and thermometers to 417 schools in five provinces and Phnom Penh.

The ceremony recognised the U.S. Government’s critical assistance for safe school re-openings through USAID’s support to UNICEF, and took place in the same week schools in Cambodia welcomed students back. The essential hygiene supplies will reach over 290,000 children, enabling them to resume their education safely.

Nuon Pharat, Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh, Benjamin Wohlauer, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy to Cambodia, and Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia, were all present for the ceremony. They also observed as secondary schools received new supplies, in addition to those that have already been delivered.

All of the partners agreed that the re-opening of schools must be safe and consistent with Cambodia’s COVID-19 school re-opening guidelines, based on global best practices. All reasonable measures should be taken to protect students, staff, teachers and their families.

Sensible precautions, including temperature checks, regular handwashing, and mask wearing are necessary to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 in school settings.

The Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh said: “I am very pleased to know that schools are receiving these supplies to assist with their safe re-opening. I would like to thank the US Embassy and UNICEF for their joint efforts with the Royal Government of Cambodia, and with Phnom Penh Capital Administration in particular, to fight against COVID-19 and to prevent transmission within the community. It is important more now than ever that school communities come together to ensure schools remain ‘COVID-19 safe’ so that our students can continue their studies in supported and safe environments.”

As well as hygiene supplies, UNICEF has distributed information, education, and communication (IEC) materials to the same schools. These will be essential for promoting good hygiene practices as schools re-open, all part of UNICEF’s broader COVID-19 recovery efforts.

The materials provide accurate information to school staff and children on how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. All children should be able to return to safe, clean, and supportive school environments so that their wellbeing and learning opportunities are both prioritized and optimized.

“The re-opening of schools is a milestone in the country’s recovery from the global crisis caused by COVID-19 and an opportunity for the nation’s children to reconnect with their school communities,” noted Ben Wohlauer, U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission. “We are proud to partner with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to help Cambodian students return to their schools.”

COVID-19 has never been only a health crisis. It has also caused the closure of schools worldwide and disrupted students’ learning. From the moment schools closed, UNICEF – supported by USAID and other partners – has worked closely with Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) to provide alternative education opportunities to students to keep them learning. Now the partnership is supporting the reopening of schools and the implementation of a blended approach to education, including resumption of face to face education together with distance learning.

Foroogh Foyozat, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia, said, “We can only succeed in overcoming enormous challenges posed by COVID-19 when we work closely with our partners. We need to work with teachers, building their skills to use blended approaches to student learning, which will be crucial to the education system’s recovery.

“We need partners like USAID, who have supported continuous learning of Cambodian children during the school closures, and now are helping them return to school safely. None of this would be possible without the Royal Government of Cambodia, which has again shown that it recognises how important education will be in helping the country not only recover from COVID-19 but thrive in the future.”

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