UNICEF scales up support in 145 countries, including Cambodia, to keep children learning despite school closure due to COVID-19

26 March 2020
school children washing hand
UNICEF Cambodia/2019/Fani Llaurado

NEW YORK, 26 March 2020 – As nationwide school closures disrupt the education for more than 80 per cent of students worldwide, UNICEF today announced it will significantly scale up support in all countries to help children continue their learning while keeping schools safe. 

“Schools in the majority of countries worldwide have closed. It is an unprecedented situation and unless we collectively act now to protect children’s education, societies and economies will feel the burden long after we’ve beaten COVID-19. In the most vulnerable communities, the impact will span generations,” said Robert Jenkins, UNICEF Global Chief of Education.

“Based on lessons learned with the school closures in response to Ebola, the longer children stay away from school, the less likely they are to ever return. Giving children alternative ways to learn and also by doing so, rebuild a routine is a critical part of our response,” said Jenkins.

To help curb the disruption to children’s education and keep children learning safely, UNICEF has allocated additional funding to accelerate work with governments and partners in more than 145 low- and middle-income countries. The initial global allocation of US $13 million – nearly $9 million of which is from a contribution made by the Global Partnership for Education – will be catalytic by supporting national governments and a wide range of education partners in each country to develop plans to enable a rapid, system-wide response.

The initiative will enable countries to prepare alternative learning programmes in the case of school closures and help schools keep children and their communities safe by providing vital information on handwashing and other hygiene practices. The funds will also help support children’s mental health and prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus.

In Cambodia, UNICEF is supporting Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) to provide alternative learning opportunities to students, including online ‘e-learning’ classes in key subjects. As there are an estimated 250,000 grade 9 and 12 students across the country, all of whom face exams this yea.  These online classes will help many to continue their study during the closure of schools due to COVID-19.

UNICEF is also working with MoEYS to expand its current programme of alternative learning services to children across basic education levels, from early childhood education and primary through to secondary education. With this support, funded by the Government of Japan, a range of e-leaning lessons and programmes will be developed and provided through MoEYS website and Facebook page.

A suite of education-specific information education communication (IEC) materials related to COVID-19 prevention has also been produced, to promote the importance of handwashing and self-care amongst children and their families, to encourage parents to support children’s learning at home and general wellbeing and mental health. These materials are available on UNICEF Cambodia and MoEYS website.

In addition, UNICEF, with funding from USAID, is providing hygiene supplies to approximately 813 schools across the country, with approximately 570,000 students. These supplies will be essential for promoting good hygiene practices when schools re-open, as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts.

Globally, including in 145 countries, UNICEF will work with partners to:

  1. Support governments’ crisis response plans including technical assistance, rapid risk analysis, data collection, and planning for the reopening of schools.
  2. Support the planning and implementation of safe school operation and risk communication including translating, printing, disseminating and implementing safe school guidelines; equipping schools with hygiene packages and circulating critical information on disease prevention; and training teachers and caregivers in psychosocial and mental health support for themselves and students.
  3. Ensure continuity of learning and access to remote learning programs including designing and preparing alternative education programmes through online, radio and television. 
  4. Enhance knowledge sharing and capacity building for the current response and future pandemics.


Notes to editors

Earlier this month, UNICEF, along with the World Health Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, released operational guidance on protecting children and schools from COVID-19.

Media contacts

Rudina Vojvoda
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Cambodia
Tel: +85523260204;ext=434
Bunly Meas
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Cambodia
Tel: +85523260204;ext=435


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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

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