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UNICEF, USAID provide hygiene supplies to schools to support MoES’ COVID-19 response

UNICEF Lao PDR and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) handed over hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment (PPEs) to the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) last Friday to support the ministry’s efforts to ensure the safety of children and education staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The supplies, consisting of cloth face masks, soaps, hand sanitizers, hand sanitizer dispensers and non-contact digital thermometers, have a total value of USD 144,000 and were procured with funding support from USAID, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF. The items were handed over in an official ceremony held at the Ministry of Education and Sports, which was attended by Minister of Education and Sports Phouth Simmalavong, USAID Country Representative to Lao PDR Michael Ronning, and UNICEF Representative to the Lao PDR Dr. Pia Rebello Britto.

The supplies handed over are part of USAID, UNICEF and GPE’s overall contribution to the ongoing efforts by the Government of the Lao PDR to ensure that schools are safe spaces for students and education staff in preparation for the new school year.

“I would like to express my sincerest thanks for this contribution from USAID, UNICEF and GPE, which will help equip schools throughout the country with the necessary tools to ensure the safety of our children as the new school year begins,” said Minister Phouth Simmalavong.

The supplies will be distributed to more than 14,000 early childhood education, pre-primary, primary and secondary schools across the country and will reach around 1.3 million students. The supplies will also be distributed to provincial and district education offices and the MoES offices.

“Schools play a key role in children’s learning, development, safety and wellbeing. For this reason, it is very important that we implement every possible safety and prevention measures in schools to ensure that children and teachers can return safely. We hope that the supplies handed over today will contribute towards keeping schools safe so that children can continue learning. When schools are closed, majority of children struggle with learning putting their whole future are risk,” stated Dr. Pia Rebello Britto.

Mr Ronning congratulated the Government of Laos in the fight against COVID-19 and the leadership for continuing to improve basic education in Laos. “Today’s handover reaffirms our commitment to supporting the Lao PDR in ending the pandemic, and improving basic education. Our assistance and outcomes so far are the testament of our growing partnership. This year, the United States and Lao PDR are celebrating the 5th anniversary of the US-Lao Comprehensive Partnership,” said Mr. Ronning.

UNICEF has been consistency supporting the Government of the Lao PDR’s efforts to ensure the continuation of teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the delivery of textbooks, teachers’ guides and other learning materials to 760,000 students and 35,000 teachers, as well as hygiene materials for close to 1 million students at the beginning of 2021.

In addition, with the funding of the European Union and GPE, UNICEF also supported the MoES in the development of a digital teaching and learning platform Khang Panya Lao. As an inclusive online, mobile and offline platform, the MoES Khang Panya Lao includes digitalized official textbooks for pre-primary and Grades 1- to 12 students, and other learning materials produced with the support of development partners, as well as global resources.

USAID, through UNICEF, successfully assisted the Ministry to safely reopen schools last year and continue to stay open so children can go to schools and safely learn.

During the lockdown when schools were closed, USAID-funded story books were also added to the MoES Khang Panya Lao’s website and app, Global Digital Library and the Let’s Read platform, helping children across the country continue to learn to read.

Source: Lao News Agency