Going against all odds to learn
Books are hard to come by in her classroom, which is cobbled together with uneven planks of wood and an ageing leaking roof. Yet unfazed by the challenges she faces, Khaima dreams of becoming a nurse and taking care of her parents someday.
A grade four student and the youngest of eight children, Khaima does not know that the odds for her to receive the higher education she needs in order to achieve her dream are not very high. According to official country statistics on education in Laos, only 67% of children aged six to nine years and 81% of children ages 10 to 14 years go to school. Once a child passes that age group, the number drops significantly to 41% or less. (Socio-economic Atlas of the Lao PDR)
Mr. Khounma, Khaima’s teacher concurs, explaining that barely 15% of the elementary school students from Khoutin Primary School continue on to high school. He said most of the parents cannot afford to provide even for their basic needs, much less send their children for higher education.
The government, which provides a silver lining for Khaima’s dreams, acknowledges the challenges as well as the promising prospects of investing in education to cope with the growing demand for qualified professionals to support the economic development of the country.
In Laos, education has become a top priority. The National Growth and Eradication Strategy (NGPES) identifies education as a key focus in the government’s efforts to eradicate poverty. “World Vision’s support to education and improving livelihoods has gradually paved the way for change in our village,” shared Bounthanum Poulasom, chief of the village where Khaima’s family lives. “My wish is for us to have leaders from our village someday.”
World Vision has also helped to renovate some of the classrooms in Khoutin Primary School where Khaima studies, as the 30-year-old facility is badly in need of repair. In the meantime, Khaima enjoys her subjects in Laos and also regularly attends English language classes.
“It is hard, but I am interested in learning,” she says with her disarming grin. “I like reading books, especially those on history.”