Korean steel giant POSCO partners with UNESCO to support  ASEAN out-of-school children

Bangkok: UNESCO and Republic of Korea steelmaking conglomerate POSCO will partner to make education more accessible for some of the millions of out-of-school children in ASEAN countries.

Thailand will be the first country targeted under the project, which aims to put the 2016 ASEAN Declaration for Out-Of-School Children (OOSC) into action for some of the region’s most marginalized learners by expanding flexible learning programmes.

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and Jeong-shik Kwak, Director-General, of POSCO’s “1% Foundation”, signed the agreement launching the project earlier this month at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

The agreement established the UNESCO-POSCO 1% Foundation Fund. The fund will provide US$900,000 over the next three years to carry out the aims of the project, starting in Thailand in 2018 and in other ASEAN countries in subsequent years.

Ichiro Miyazawa, UNESCO Bangkok Programme Specialist in Literacy and Lifelong Learning, said that the initiative speaks to the important role that the private sector can – and must – play in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“We are grateful for POSCO’s support of our efforts to the benefits of equitable, quality basic education to all learners,” he said. “POSCO’s hard working employees are committing 1% of their salaries to this project, and that shows true passion for supporting disadvantaged children in ASEAN countries who refuse to give up. We will connect them through this project.

“Partnerships like this hold true promise for realizing the vision of our global education agenda.”

UNESCO Bangkok will roll out the project in four Thai provinces: Chiang Rai, Rayong, Ranong and Songkhla.

At least 200 provincial and district officials, teachers and community learning centre (CLC) facilitators, as well as NGOs and community based organizations, will take part in UNESCO-led capacity development trainings on flexible learning programmes during the initial phase of the project. The project will also provide direct support to schools that can accommodate disadvantaged learners’ needs.

The project stands to benefit a minimum of 2,000 primary/lower secondary school-aged children in the four provinces stand to benefit once the project has reached the implementation stage and flexible learning programmes are initiated. Some of the region’s most marginalized learners are targeted under the project: ethnic minority and hilltribe children; migrant and undocumented children; children with disabilities and orphans; street children and disadvantaged Muslim children.

Thailand was selected as the pilot country for the project, as despite having made tremendous strides in expanding learning opportunities for all children, many children are left without basic education. Many of them are ethnic minorities, migrant and undocumented children. More than 450,000 primary school-aged children are not in school, according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics figures from 2015. At the lower secondary level, more than 190,000 children were reported to be out of school.

The UNESCO-POSCO partnership aims to address this challenge in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning for all”. It also directly addresses SDG4 target 4, which calls on countries to “eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations”.

More on the POSCO 1% Foundation: Established in 2013 by the South Korean Conglomerate POSCO, “POSCO 1% Foundation” supports philanthropic projects focusing on local communities, rising generations, green planet issues, diversity and cultural heritage. The Foundation is operated by a Fund to which employees, affiliate companies and outsourcing companies share 1% of their salary for philanthropic projects.