UNESCO and Smart Axiata have officially signed a partnership agreement to provide two years of support to the Basic Education Equivalency Programme (BEEP), covering 2020-2022.
The agreement includes the provision of mobile devices and mobile data credits for out-of-school youths to further their educations.
The partnership agreement was officially signed on February 17 by UNESCO Country Representative in Cambodia Sardar Umar Alam and Smart Axiata CEO Thomas Hundt at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.
Education minister Hang Chuon Naron presided over the ceremony along with secretary of state for the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training Pich Sophoan.
According to education ministry officials, Smart has been actively involved in supporting the BEEP programme since its first phase began in 2017-2018. This is the second phase of Smart’s continued support for BEEP, providing both devices and the mobile internet access.
According to the press release announcing the agreement, Smart has committed to providing 350 internet connected tablets and 350 SIM cards with unlimited data and internet packages along with five laptops in order to sponsor 500 students’ access to online courses free of charge through 2022.
The press release quoted Smart CEO Hundt as saying that access to education was a basic human right and one that Smart believes in very strongly.
“By harnessing the power of technology, young people, especially those who have entered the workforce without basic qualifications, now have opportunities to continue learning, growing and improving.
“We are proud to continue the partnership with UNESCO and the relevant ministries to address an urgent need to provide ongoing educational opportunities to young people,” Hundt said.
UNESCO’s Umar Alam said the organisation is pleased to continue working together with Smart to provide flexible and digital educational solutions for students at BEEP learning centres to pursue their studies remotely.
“This public and private partnership will create more opportunities to ensure youth can access quality education and job oriented skills,” Sardar Umar was quoted as saying.
A total of 21 BEEP learning centres were established in 2019-2020 in 12 municipalities and provinces across Cambodia and there are plans to expand the programme to include 35 learning centres across 15 municipalities and provinces by 2023, according to the press release.
The education ministry confirmed that BEEP is a joint initiative between the education and labour ministries and UNESCO to expand access to basic education for young people and to help address the high dropout rate for high school students and provide those students with an opportunity to further their educations through Technical Vocational and Training institutes or technical schools.