help girls get the best start in life

preschool teacher telling a story with a handmade puppet in laosGender inequality remains a massive issue, particularly in education. This is one of the reasons why Intrepid has been spurred into action and joined forces with Plan to set up SAMA, a 3-year global gender equality project that aims to improve the lives of communities and help bridge the gender gap through education.

We’re asking for your support and giving SAMA a High-5 will really help. This recent article from Plan gives an insight into the struggles youngsters in Laos face to get an early education and how much of a difference it makes when children are able to attend pre-school…

“In the 89 villages dotted around the rugged mountains of Bokeo province’s Pha Oudom district – one of the poorest districts in Laos – there were only 18 schools that provide early education, primarily for 5 year-olds.

In 2011, Plan supported the development of preschools in 12 villages in Bokeo and Vientiane, that contains child-friendly furniture and age appropriate learning materials.

“I am trying my best to provide a good education with the knowledge and skills I learned from the training,” Ms. Champhone, a 28 year-old preschool teacher, said, noting that the work was often challenging. “It is difficult to teach 70 children at a time.”

Early education reduces the repetition and dropout rates of primary school students, especially in the first few years. In Laos, the repetition rate for grade 1 is more than 30 percent, and 13 percent of children drop out in grade 1, according to UNESCO.

Three years ago, preschools did not exist in Laos. In Pha Oudom, preschool enrolment has almost tripled in that time, from 283 to 802 students, while the number of children repeating grade 1 has dropped from 475 to 265.

Starting early education is particularly important for children from ethnic groups – many of whom speak only their own language. The preschools provide an opportunity for them to learn Lao – which will help them to continue their education and find work in the future – and to improve their ability to express themselves and socialise with other children.

“Children from ethnic groups are often too shy to even speak with each other in the beginning, but they are now able to sing in front of adults! They can also understand Lao better,” said Ms. Champhone.

Preschool is a safe place for the young children to spend their days, allowing older siblings, especially girls, who are normally tasked with looking after the young ones to enrol in primary school.

Children with an early start to education have a sense of self-worth. They have more confidence and achieve better results as they progress into primary school. Providing early learning opportunities allows children to have the best start to life.”

SAMA’s first mission is to act as primary fundraiser for Plan’s work in the poorest districts of Bokeo Province. This project will provide children aged 0–8 years with access to quality early learning services, prepare older children for primary school and establish regular parenting groups.

It might not sound like much, but $5 can go a long way. It can buy a maths bag and slate for a youngster or sports equipment for a village. We would love it if you could support this worthwhile project by giving SAMA a High-5 today!

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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