Every child has the right to quality education. This cannot be possible without trained and qualified teachers.
It is estimated that globally almost 69 million new teachers are needed each year to reach the 2030 education goal of universal primary and secondary education. This ‘teacher gap’ is more pronounced among vulnerable populations – girls, children with disabilities, refugee and migrant children, and poor children living in rural or remote areas.
In Lao PDR, 64% of the population live in rural areas where poverty is high and access to basic services is limited. Furthermore, Lao is one of the most ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse countries, with 49 officially recognised ethnic groups and more than 200 sub-groups. Many of them live in remote and hard to access locations and communicate predominately in their own mother tongue. When they first start school, many children in remote villages have never been exposed to Lao language, which is the official instruction language.
These factors present real challenges for the delivery of education. On top of that, it is especially difficult to attract and maintain qualified teachers in remote and ethnic minority areas.
The EU co-funded BEQUAL programme ran until 31 August 2020 and supported the Ministry of Education and Sports of Lao PDR in improving delivery and quality of education. It notably addressed the teacher gap in remote areas through selecting, training and deploying ethnic teachers to disadvantaged areas through an Ethnic Teachers Scholarships Programme.
Thanks to this scholarship programme, 359 young people from rural and remote areas were trained in the Teacher Training Colleges and were deployed to their villages. Over 60% of them were women.
This helps children adapt more easily to the school environment, learn and perform better, and stay longer in school as Sokhong Piemu, one of the recipients of this scholarship, puts it. He says that as he understands the language and culture of the communities, he provides a language bridge and helps the children to learn and stay in school. He adds that before an official from the District Bureau of Education came to his village and presented the ETS programme, he thought he was destined to be a farmer or factory worker. He believed by becoming a teacher he could help his community. “My village has only one teacher for the whole school and the teacher does not speak our language. When teachers come from other places, they do not stay long”, he says. He graduated in 2019 and now works in Namai village in Singh district.
I want to be a teacher and inspire many women to receive education, especially the women in my village.