Cambodia Investment Review

Smart Axiata and UNESCO renew strategic partnership to support out-of-school youths

Smart Axiata and UNESCO renew strategic partnership to support out-of-school youths

Cambodia Investment Review

Smart Axiata, Cambodia’s leading telecommunications company, reaffirmed its support for UNESCO’s Basic Education Equivalency Programme (BEEP) on April 6, 2023, signing an MoU with UNESCO Cambodia and Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) and Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training (MLVT).

The new agreement was signed at the UNESCO Phnom Penh Office and will see Smart extend the partnership into 2025. Smart has supported BEEP by facilitating access to the platform for out-of-school youths since 2016. Through this support, learners have been able to enroll in skills training at technical vocational education and training (TVET) institutes and general and technical high schools.

Read more: Smart Axiata Gearing Up for Network Capacity Expansion

BEEP provides flexible, alternative education to out-of-school youths, enabling them to complete the equivalent of lower secondary/basic education up to Grade 9. It offers a total of 11 e-learning subjects, all of which are available online. This flagship initiative is part of Decent Employment for Youth in Cambodia, a program that is mainly funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Development of human resources is essential to Cambodia

During Phase II of the program from 2020 to 2022, Smart provided 350 tablets and 350 SIM cards with unlimited data to allow 500 students to access courses free of charge, as well as five laptops for coordination purposes to the ministries administering the program.

For the upcoming Phase III from March 2023 to March 2025, the mobile operator has committed to providing 500 smartphones to successful graduates, 100 tablets to learning centers, 1,000 unlimited data packages to support students in accessing the courses and 20 Wi-Fi devices with data to centers in targeted provinces.

Chief Executive Officer of Smart Axiata Ziad Shatara expressed his delight at the renewal of the strategic partnership. “Smart is really honored to have been working with UNESCO to support BEEP since the very beginning of the program in 2016. This initiative is more important now than ever before, as the development of human resources is essential to Cambodia achieving its goal of becoming an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.”

Sardar Umar Alam, the UNESCO representative to Cambodia, also emphasized the importance of this partnership as the ministerial partners presented a certificate of appreciation to the telecommunications company for its contribution to the initiative

“The partnership with Smart Axiata has played a critical role in promoting digital education, lifelong learning and skills development in Cambodia, in partnership with the MoEYS and MLVT. This collaboration sets a model for public-private partnership to enhance human resource development in Cambodia, as partnerships like this are key for supporting the lower secondary school dropouts to acquire qualifications and skills which enable youths to obtain decent employment,” he added.

Gearing up to reach out to more young people

BEEP has grown significantly since the inauguration of its first learning center in 2019. There are now 26 learning centers throughout 16 provinces in Cambodia, and over 1,800 learners, including low-skilled and unemployed youths, have benefited from the program. Almost two-thirds of program graduates have gone on to pursue further skills development at TVET institutes.

BEEP is now gearing up to reach out to more young people by expanding to correctional facilities and rehabilitation centers, and the program also intends to enroll more migrants. The Royal Government of Cambodia recently announced that by the end of 2023 or early 2024, vocational and technical training will be provided to 1.5 million young people from poor and vulnerable households across the country at state institutions, giving them a monthly allowance and waiving tuition fees. BEEP, as a flexible, online skills-bridging program, will play a key role in supporting the realization of the country’s skills development plan.

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