Many NGOs that work at the grassroots level draw inspiration from projects in various parts of the world. Although every country is different, initiatives can often be adapted to assist those who need it. Access to education is a global challenge, but below is an example of a creative project in Laos which has succeeded in increasing access to education for village children. Could something similar be implemented in India?
In Laos, statistics suggest that in 2009 over 45,000 children in remote villages did not have access to education. Like in some parts of India, good schools are located outside of villages, difficult to get to and often poorly resourced – therefore parents believe it is better for their children to work instead.
One of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to achieve universal primary school education by 2015 – however in Laos and many other countries, this goal will not be reached if children do not have access to schools in the first place.
Through a project funded by numerous bodies including UNESCO and the World Bank, over 7,000 out-of-school children living in extremely poor and isolated villages in Laos now have access to a primary education programme through the mobile teacher approach. This involves teachers visiting different villages throughout Laos, teaching for 5 hours per day, five days a week for 6 months.
The teachers move with the students – during the planting and harvest seasons, students relocate with their families for farming purposes. Each mobile teacher is responsible for two villages and the mobile schools are supported by a teaching assistant (a local resident in the village who can read and write). The mobile teachers work in a total of 282 villages in the most educationally disadvantaged districts in the country.
In addition to supporting children’s education, this programme also boosts employment – each mobile teacher receives around 600,000 Lao Kip a month (75 US dollars), roughly equivalent to a formal-system school teacher.
Being asked about his dream, Mr Niyapana, a mobile teacher, said: “I would like to be a good, outstanding teacher and a role model to children and villagers. I hope our country will get out of poverty with our effort.”