Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Face of Mobile Learning: Education and Hope to Remote, Underserved Communities

The Face of Mobile Learning: Education and Hope to Remote, Underserved Communities
By Leandra Flor
UNICEF/LAOPDR/2012/LFLOR - The mobile school in Ban Pa Long Nai village. Savannakhet province, Lao PDR.
Savannakhet province, Lao PDR – It’s the rainy season in Lao PDR—a time when most children are at home, taking their annual break from the school year.
But for some children, the school-year break is their opportunity to learn.
For Sing, a 10-year-old with bright eyes and toothy smile, this is the occasion he’s been waiting for all year. His village in Savannakhet, Lao PDR’s largest southern province, is located in a forest protected area some five kilometres from the nearest primary school.
UNICEF/LAOPDR/2012/LFLOR - "I want to be the first policeman of our village," says Sing, 10. Sing is studying under a a Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) initiative which uses mobile teachers, to deliver primary education to those who live far from schools. Savannakhet province, Lao PDR.
Lately, he’s been waking up early to help out with household chores before getting ready to meet Teacher Phaeng, his class mentor.

But he doesn’t walk five kilometres to meet her. She and the school came to him.
During the summer months a makeshift school appears in his village. Through a Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) initiative which uses mobile teachers, to deliver primary education to those who live far from schools.
 “I want to learn Lao, how to read and write,” Sing says. Sing is of the Lavi ethnic group, of which Lao is the secondary language.

 “The village school is better because it’s closer to my family, and I’m scared to walk far to get to the primary school.”
Sing also happens to have a knack for singing and eagerly performs for the class.
“I want to be a policeman because there’s none in our village, I want to be the first,” he adds with a grin.
Eight kilometres from Sing’s village is a Bab Sakinay, where 8-year-old Noy lives. While her timid manner is the opposite of Sing, underneath her tiny frame is another child with big dreams. She anticipates every session in the mobile schools. Dressed in a sinh (a traditional Lao skirt) for the class, she brings her sole notebook and pencil. 
UNICEF/LAOPDR/2012/SSANOUBANE  - "I want to be a teacher," says Noy, 8. Noy is studying under a Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) initiative which uses mobile teachers, to deliver primary education to those who live far from schools. Savannakhet province, Lao PDR.
Noy says she prefers their village school because, like Sing’s, it’s closer to her home. Being a young girl, her parents are worried about her safety if she walks a long distance to school.
Noy is busy at home as well. She has to help out in the home by taking care of her young siblings and preparing meals for the family. But she still she still finds time to review her notes at night.
Her father is very proud of her for having the motivation to study. He encourages Noy to read and write, and to proceed to formal secondary education when the time comes. Once Noy finishes her education, he hopes she will come back to the village and help their family and their community.
“I want to be a teacher,” she says with a big smile on her face.

Lao PDR’s strategy to reach the un-reached 
Noy and Sing are two among nearly 15,000 educationally disadvantaged children aged 6-14 years old in their province, which is the site of the three-year MoES pilot initiative.  The formal name is the Primary Education Equivalency (PEP) programme, which aims to deliver primary education through a mobile teaching system. Trained non-formal education teachers are sent to target areas to implement the programme, covering 70 per cent of the formal primary curriculum. At the end of the third year of study, the students will take the formal primary education exit exam set by the District Education Bureau. Once passed, the students are accredited as formal primary education graduates, giving them the opportunity to enrol in a secondary school. Following successes in Savannakhet the pilot programme has plans to expand further in the province and to the four additional provinces: Luang Namtha, Saravane, Phongsaly and Khammouane.

As part of its mandate supporting Education For All, UNICEF is actively involved in PEP by providing technical assistance to MoES in the central, provincial and district levels to ensure quality and timely implementation of the programme. Additionally, teaching and learning materials, as well as classroom rehabilitation supplies will be procured through UNICEF’s services. 
UNICEF/LAOPDR/2012/LFLOR - Learning by doing. Sing, 10, demonstrating his writing knowledge in Lao language.
A flicker of hope is what the families and children of the villages see in PEP.  Like Noy and Sing, they engage themselves eagerly in the programme. The mobile teachers, together with their teaching assistants, not only bring the gift of education but also inspiration to the students who will in turn share what they learn and help their families as well as peers.

Sing is studying under a Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) initiative which uses mobile teachers, to deliver primary education to those who live far from schools. Savannakhet province, Lao PDR.     
UNICEF/LAOPDR/2012/SSANOUBANE - Mr. Suay, teaching assistant, encouraging students to participate in the discussion.
 
UNICEF/LAOPDR/2012/LFLOR -  Noy demonstrating her writing knowledge in the Lao language. Savannakhet province, Lao PDR.
UNICEF/LAOPDR/2012/LFLOR - Class participation in Ban Sakinoy. Savannakhet province, Lao PDR.

1 comment:

  1. This is convincingly good. I hope this is not the last time you will write an article that tackles this topic. Thank you for sharing this wonderful and fantastic post. I will support this and share this to my royal essay students.

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