UNICEF Laos: national distribution of COVID-response learning materials with support from the Global Partnership for Education
Materials provided are worth $3.6 million and will help implement the Education Response Plan of the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES)
Vientiane, 22 February – Today, UNICEF provided textbooks, teachers’ guides and other learning materials to the MoES for about 760,000 Lao students from pre-primary to secondary school, and over 35,000 teachers across the country for a total value of $2.2 million. Additionally, almost one million students in kindergarten, pre-primary and primary schools will receive soaps, cleaning and other hygiene materials to support COVID-19 prevention measures in schools for a value of $1.4 million.
These materials have been procured with funding from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) COVID-19 Accelerated Grant and will support the overall COVID-19 education response as stated in the Education Response Plan.
“With these additional materials, we will work with the provincial and district offices to ensure that teachers allow for each student to have his or her own textbook and learning materials and take them home with clear instructions on how to take good care of the books,” said H.E. Dr. Phout Simmalavong, Vice Minister of Education and Sports who co-chaired with Dr. Pia Britto, Representative of UNICEF to the Lao PDR, a ceremony attended also by Australian Ambassador H.E. Mr. Paul Kelly, EU Ambassador H.E. Ina Marčiulionytė, World Bank Country Manager Mr. Nicola Pontara, and Save the Children Deputy Country Director, Eli Mechanic.
Grades 1 and 2 textbooks are also printed in Braille for children with visual impairments. As textbooks can last 2-3 school calendar years, more students and teachers are expected to benefit. The aim is to ensure that each student gets her or his own textbook, particularly in remote schools so that students can take home materials in the case schools have to be closed for various emergencies.
“When schools closed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students across the country saw their learning paths interrupted as not all students had access to e-learning platforms or textbooks. Having students have their own textbooks, workbooks and learning materials is very important for their learning and literacy development. Thus, it is our hope that the materials handed over today will help Lao children to develop to their full potential and this, in turn, will contribute to the development of the nation,” stated Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, Representative of UNICEF to the Lao PDR.
As part of the GPE COVID-19 grant support all public kindergartens, pre-primary and primary schools across the country have received hygiene materials. Provision of clean water and handwashing facilities for selected schools will also be supported by the GPE COVID-19 grant. UNICEF is complementing this support with continued risk communication around COVID-19 prevention and control in schools, and other interventions under the WASH in Schools programme.
“Handwashing with soap and regular cleaning and disinfecting of school facilities are among globally endorsed COVID-19 prevention and control measures. While the country prepares to roll-out the COVID-19 vaccines, we need to continue to be vigilant and continue with handwashing with soap, social distancing and other precautionary measures,” explained the Education Vice Minister.
The GPE COVID-19 grant is very timely as it allowed to help fill the gap in the education budget. The budget has been decreasing due to fiscal constraints and is expected to worsen given the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The support from GPE as well as additional funding from partners such as Australia, the European Union and the World Bank is crucial to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on education.
“GPE’s support for educating children in Laos is more critical now than ever before,” said Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education. “Families, schools and governments are struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic. This funding will help make sure that all children can get back to learning safely.”
“In Laos, results of several large-scale assessment that measure learning outcomes show students in Grade 3, Grade 5 and Grade 9 are not at all mastering the literacy and numeracy skills they should be learning. This highlights the need to urgently ensure there is sufficient budget for education and that resources are spent on the right interventions aimed at improving learning outcomes,” highlighted Dr. Pia Rebello Britto.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that in a world facing a learning crisis, digital learning should be an essential service. Here in Lao PDR, UNICEF with the EU and GPE is supporting MoES set-up a digital teaching and learning platform for use by students, teachers, pedagogical advisers and other education staff. A mobile application has been developed and is currently being tested.
About the Global Partnership for Education
GPE is a shared commitment to ending the world’s learning crisis. We mobilize partners and funds to support 90 lower-income countries and territories to transform their education systems so that every girl and boy can get the quality education they need to unlock their full potential and contribute to building a better world.
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.