More than 50% of Cambodia’s population is under the age of 18, and only about one-third of which completes Grade 9. As a consequence, many youth do not develop the skills, behaviors, and support networks that are necessary to attain gainful employment and keep them safe from exploitation. The most disadvantaged youth – especially girls – are at particular risk for facing unemployment, sexual and labor exploitation, trafficking, poor health, drug abuse, violence, crime, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV infection.
ConnectEd aimed to minimize these risks through improved learning outcomes, preparedness for the world of work, and civic engagement of disadvantaged youth. These goals were achieved through a range a interventions that included life skills and personal development courses, skills training, and ‘Youth Voice’ actions and campaigns. The project focused particular attention on promoting digital inclusion–integrating technology into the classroom and ensuring access to information, education, and communication–improving school access and completion rates for in-school youth, providing nonformal education learning opportunities to out-of-school girls and disadvantaged youth, improving access to formal schooling for previously out-of-school girls and youth, and enhancing workplace preparedness.
Funded by the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation, ConnectEd is a global initiative that spans across seven countries: Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Egypt, France, and India. In Cambodia, the project worked predominantly in Prey Veng province, which has the highest poverty levels in the country and low education participation rates. Additionally, it is a major area for trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child labor; suffers from severe food insecurity; and has a large migrant population due to under-employment. In Phnom Penh, WEI partnered with Happy School to implement a small component of the project with migrant youth who are outside of the formal school system and who suffer discrimination, poor housing, extreme poverty, an unstable family life, and exclusion from social services.
Alcatel-Lucent employees in Cambodia were actively involved throughout the ConnectEd program. They played a key role in the program’s success through fulfilling such roles as mentoring, tutoring, facilitating student clubs, assisting in setting up computer labs, and guest speaking at events.