Growing together: Supporting children, parents, communities for better tomorrows

UNICEF is providing early childhood development trainings for children and parenting sessions for parents and communities in the most disadvantaged areas so that every child gets adequate support and education to fulfil their potential.

Irem Karakaya
Mother and child
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
06 July 2022

In a dimly lit wooden classroom decorated with banners, writings and drawings, around 30 parents, with curious eyes, were sitting at the classroom desks and carefully listening to a lecturer, who was pointing at a brand-new poster depicting parents playing with their children.

This was a scene from a recent parenting orientation session at the remote village of Huai Lath in the northwest of Saravan province, which was aimed at sharing positive childcare practices with parents and caregivers to help support their children’s development.

One of those who attended the parenting session was 39-year-old Ms. Ngoi. This was only the second time that Ms. Ngoi attended the community meetings organized in the village on parenting since January 2022 but the mother of five had the opportunity to share her experience of parenting and also learned a lot from other parents, including not punishing children in case of a wrongdoing but explaining what is wrong with their particular behaviour instead.

UNICEF staff with a child
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Maliphet Soukhaseum, UNICEF Early Childhood Education Specialist, interacts with Ms. Ngoi’s two-month-old son after positive parenting session held with members of Huai Lath village of Saravane.

Parenting orientation sessions are part of the Love and Care for Every Child (LCEC) initiative that aims to influence and transform parenting practices within families and opportunities for children under seven years across Lao PDR. Sessions are focusing on care, protection and communication such as maternal and newborn health, sexual and reproductive health, breastfeeding, mother and child nutrition, preventing child marriage, positive discipline and nurturing bonds and early stimulation through guidebooks, storybooks, videos and audio recordings.

“One thing I didn’t know before joining the parenting sessions and particularly surprised me was talking to baby in the womb. I had no idea that unborn children can hear voices,” Ms. Ngoi said.

Paired with community-based school readiness programme, parenting orientation sessions support children to grow, learn and thrive. Supported by UNICEF Australia and other donors , parenting sessions are implemented in 38 centres, reaching around  1,100students and  520 parents in the most disadvantaged parts of Saravan and Savannakhet provinces where formal pre-primary education and classes do not exist.

UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Mr. Noi Phonsavanh (R), Vice Principal of Huailath Primary School, points on a poster on which parents play with their children during a positive parenting session held with members of Huai Lath village of Saravane.

Another parent like Ms. Ngoi who attended the parenting session was Mr. Keaum Saynhasone, a 35-year-old father whose 7-year-old son is attending a community-based school readiness programme providing quality early childhood education.

Before joining community meetings about parenting, Mr. Saynhasone says he did not know much about how to take care of his children as a father.

UNICEF staff meets parents
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Mr. Keaum Sainhasone (L) talks to Maliphet Soukhaseum, UNICEF Early Childhood Education Specialist, after a positive parenting session held with members of Huai Lath village of Saravane.
A child
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Mr. Keaum Sainhasone’s 7-year-old son (R) who attends Community Based School Readiness programme smiles while sitting next to his father.

The father of three is happy about the development of his son after he began attending the community-based school readiness programme. “He became a more active and curious child. He tells us what he has learned at school each day and since he began attending the programme, he started to help us and other family members out as well,” Mr. Saynhasone said.

Like Mr. Saynhasone’s son, a total of 30 more children are attending the community-based school readiness programme in Huai Lath village. Two community facilitators, Ms. Nang and Ms. Khambay, acknowledged that children who attend community-based school readiness programme acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills better and are more prepared for primary education.

“The programme is helping with children’s growth and therefore our village’s development. Thanks to the pre-primary programme, children are able to enrol in primary school at the appropriate age and they love to come to school and learn,” said Mr. Noi Phonsavanh, Vice Principal of Huailath Primary School.