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Plan pushes worker literacy

Anne Lemaistre, the UNESCO Representative in Cambodia speaks at the workers literacy training yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Anne Lemaistre, the UNESCO Representative in Cambodia speaks at the workers literacy training yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Plan pushes worker literacy

More than 100 workers in six garment factories in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have achieved literacy under a pilot programme that will now expand to another 18 factories across the country, organisers said yesterday.

The pilot supported by Unesco, the literacy promoting NGO Sipar and the Ministry of Education – began in February 2016 and ended in April with “successful” results.

Sin Sothea, Sipar’s library programme manager, said the literacy rate among the country’s 700,000 garment workers is estimated to be around 50 percent.

“We want to continue to increase it,” he said. “We believe that there are links between literacy and the rate of productivity.”

A total of 120 workers learned basic Khmer writing and reading skills under the pilot programme, said Unesco Cambodia Representative Anne Lemaistre.

“It’s good for the productivity of the workers because they are able to identify their [task] and even their name on the list,” she said.

Kouch Kou Lom-A, director of the department of nonformal education at the Ministry of Education, said the ministry helped prepare the course books and trained other employees at the factories to teach the lessons.

“I would like to see all factories in Cambodia have such classes because it is beneficial for the workers,” he said.

Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia Deputy Secretary-General Kaing Monika said GMAC signed a memorandum of understanding with Sipar over a year ago regarding the programme, which takes place during working hours.

“We support literacy,” he said. “I don’t see any loss of productivity.” However, an evaluation of the programme found that it did affect workers’ productivity and overtime, which caused some to be blamed by their managers.

Moeun Tola, head of labour rights group Central, said the programme was a good idea, although it should also cover how workers can improve their working and living conditions.
“That should be connected,” he said. “Literacy is also going to increase their [the workers’] expectations.”

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