Photo credit: Christine Redmond/Aide et Action
In Cambodia, as students are going through their fifth consecutive month without school due to the COVID-19 crisis, Aide et Action is taking action by distributing more than 3300 radios to underprivileged children in support of a governmental program for inclusive education.
Although considerable efforts have been made to educate Cambodian schoolchildren virtually, there is still a significant proportion of children who do not have access to the Internet or the necessary digital devices. In remote areas of Cambodia, the language barrier is an additional obstacle that prevents many young people from ethnic minorities from accessing understandable educational content online. The equity issues, already present before the Coronavirus, are then becoming more widespread as the crisis continues and the digital divide widens.
Bridging the digital divide
In April 2020, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports began broadcasting radio programmes in three of Cambodia's most widely spoken ethnic minority languages - Tumpun, Kreung and Bunong - in an effort to create more inclusive educational programming. " These radio programmes are important. Educational programmes on TV and Facebook are only in Khmer, the national language, but they do not benefit our young students who should be able to learn in their own language "says Pun Bunlea, headmaster of Poutrum Krombie Primary School.
To ensure that as many families as possible have access to this program, Aide et Action is undertaking a large-scale distribution of radios to disadvantaged children. In total, more than 3,300 radios should be distributed in the provinces of Mondul Kiri, Ratana Kiri and Krati by the end of the summer.
Children living in rural areas, who are already at risk of dropping out of school to work in agriculture and help their families, are further threatened by this crisis situation, which plunges households into poverty. The need to feed the family can then override the need to return to school. Khin Seang, the headmaster of a primary school says: " My dream is that the children of the ethnic minorities who live here will be literate and that all children will be educated."
On 10 July 2020, Aide et Action received a certificate of appreciation from the Royal Government of Cambodia in recognition of its commitment to inclusive education during the COVID-19 crisis.