|Pheomeo teaches her class. (c)UNICEF/2013/S. Nazer|
Most community based pre-schools claim similar outcomes. When entering primary school, children from pre-schools were emotionally and socially more developed than those who had no attended.
They also knew how to hold a pen and paper and, most importantly, they could understand Lao, a seldom-used second language in many ethnic minority villages.
Pheomeo, part of the Akha ethnic group in Northern Lao PDR, has been teaching for a year and confidently led her children through a host of activities, from singing to counting, dancing and writing.
Standing in front of a large list of songs on the wall she had written to ensure she never gets the words wrong, she explains how she became a community teacher: "In the beginning I didn't want to do it, I wanted to help my family make money from the rubber trees. But I was selected by my village so I did it, and now I really like it."
|Creative activities (c) UNICEF/2013/Nazer|
The 'community-based school readiness' (CBSR) project gives villages the tools to prepare their children for school.
Pheomeo thanked her village head for the strong support she receives to do her job, and in return the village head, Mr La, praised her: "She is very committed, as is her family. Her parents could have taken her to the rubber plantations where she could make more money." Fortunately Pheomeo had the support of her parents to help the village.
A similar story was found in villages throughout the Luang Nam Tha province, with dedicated teachers working each day to get 5 year olds ready for primary school.
The provincial chief, Bounchan Luangleuxay, also praised the project: "We are really learning by doing and we are achieving a lot already. We are grateful to UNICEF for helping us to get to the hard-to-reach children in the poorest of the poor areas and get them ready for school."
He reported that after CBSR, 100 per cent of children went to primary school, with an even split between boys and girls.
|Primary School: 'How many of you went to community pre-school?' (c)UNICEF|
It is also particularly hard to monitor those in remote areas and the District staff also need to be taught stronger monitoring, evaluation and support skills. Much of the time the quality of the classrooms are poor, with no purpose built areas for young children.
But it is always worth trying, says Mr La: "If we do nothing, how do children in remote areas have a chance to access education?"
By Simon Nazer