ACT NOW: New nationwide back to school campaign promotes safe COVID-19 behavior for the 2021 school year in Cambodia

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The campaign is themed “Act Now” and will reinforce proven safe behaviors around COVID-19, as well as other cross cutting messages to make schools safe, healthy and a flourishing environment for children. These messages are captured in creative videos, posters, radio spots, and text messages that will be broadcast across the country. Some materials, such as flyers and games, will be printed for children to take home, ensuring the messages engage families and communities in fun and playful ways. In addition, an illustrated booklet for teachers and school principals featuring safety guidelines, checklists and tips has already been produced and delivered to all 16,500+ schools so that teachers can start the new school year fully prepared.

“Our priority throughout the pandemic has been keeping children safe, while also doing all possible to maintain their education. We’re proud of the Cambodian Government’s efforts in keeping infections amongst the lowest in the world, while also ensuring distance learning was available for all students,” said H.E. Dr. Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport. “Now that the new school year is beginning, we want to get the message out very clearly. We want children to return to school and parents to prioritize their children’s learning, knowing that we are working hard to protect students from the virus. Children and parents also need to play their part, by following the guidelines that this campaign promotes.”

The campaign is funded by the European Union and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). It builds on the campaign the Ministry and UNICEF launched in September 2020 to announce that schools were re-opening after a six-month closure, a highly successful effort which was also funded by the same generous donors.

Her Excellency Carmen Moreno, the European Union Ambassador to Cambodia said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major challenges for the education sector, putting severe strain on students and their families. While online learning has been introduced under the strong leadership of MoEYS, it can never fully replace classroom teaching, and is not accessible to all. All children should therefore be encouraged to go back to school and feel safe when doing so. I therefore call on everybody – directors, teachers, students and parents alike - to take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe school environment for all”. The Ambassador also expressed her appreciation for the EU-Cambodia strong partnership in the education sector, which started more than 15 years ago, contributing to the implementation of the national education reforms with the aim to ensure access to quality education for all the Cambodian children. She finalized by saying: “Education is a basic human right and essential to ensure a prosperous future for the country and its people”.

“The pandemic has made it especially difficult for children to stay engaged in learning,” said Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education. “While distance education has offered some continuity for learning, there is no replacement for the interaction between students and teachers. GPE’s support will help the Government of Cambodia to safely reopen schools so that children are protected from COVID-19 as they return to in-person learning.”

The campaign has been designed to reach teachers, parents and caregivers, and children and young people. All assets will be inclusive, with translations into the four minority languages spoken in Cambodia. As well as being broadcast through mass media, key information and assets will also be disseminated through targeted use of messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger. UNICEF will make all assets available to its partners in the Cambodian education sector so that they can use and adapt them as they see fit, ensuring maximum/ impact across the country.

“Cambodian children have experienced serious disruptions to their education over the last year, and many have lost out on learning,” said Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia“As we move forward into 2021 and reimagine a post pandemic world, it is vital that we work together to keep schools as safe as possible and avert an education crisis. The pandemic has also brought about opportunities to use technology and innovative ways for teaching and learning, and for building back better an inclusive education system for all. We believe this creative campaign will connect with children, families and teachers alike, inspiring confidence in the safety of schools and reaffirming the value of education for every Cambodian child.”

The campaign has been designed by the Melon Rouge Agency in collaboration with MoEYS and UNICEF. All campaign materials are available on UNICEF Cambodia Website.

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