Opening the door of possibilities through early childhood education

Community-based school readiness programme prepares children for school while empowering young community members with skills and employment.

Irem Karakaya
Teacher and student
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
06 July 2022

Four days per week at 8 a.m., Ms. Vord Konvilay begins her day by climbing the stairs leading to a wooden cabin. She then enters a dimly lit classroom where 21 students, all aged between three to six years old, eagerly await their teacher’s arrival.

Two years ago, when she entered the very same classroom in Maknao village of Saravan province, the only thing the 23-years-old village facilitator knew about children was that she just like spending time with them. Now, the secondary-school graduate confidently interacts with children, plays games and teaches them whatever is needed for them to have a head start in life.

“When I became a village  facilitator, I did not know anything about early childhood development. We received three trainings, an early childhood education toolkit, storybooks, training on COVID-19 and technical support from the district. I dream of becoming a pre-primary teacher and to continue working with young children,” Ms. Konvilay said.

Like Ms. Konvilay, a total of 60 people, selected from communities in Saravan, Savannakhet and Phongsaly provinces are helping children grow while improving their skills at the same time. They received training to provide early childhood learning to young children using an active learning and play-based approach in remote areas where there are no existing pre-schools.

Children in classroom
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Vinna(L) and a boy child listen the village facilitator in a CBSR center in Maknao village of Saravane province.

One of these children who is receiving early childhood education from village facilitators is Vinna, a 5-years-old girl who has been coming to the centre for a year now. She prefers coming to school rather than staying at home as she gets to learn new things.

“I have learned colours and how to count, and there are also a lot of people here,” she says. After quickly counting the number of friends on her fingers, Vinna flashes a seven with her fingers: “I have seven friends here and we always play together.”

Implemented by the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), with the support of UNICEF Lao PDR and the Korean Committee for UNICEF, the community-based school readiness (CBSR) programme helps prepare children for school, particularly those who would otherwise have no opportunity for early learning. As part of the programme, 30 CBSR centres have been established and a total of 738 children in remote and disadvantaged areas have been able to access early childhood education for the past two years.

As the nearest school offering pre-primary is located around 6 kilometres away, the CBSR programme that started in Maknao village both helped the learning of children and encouraged parents to become more interested in their children’s education.

The wooden CBSR centre has a little crack on the sidewall which allows curious parents and caregivers to see what is going on in the class and how their children are doing, one of whom is Vinna’s uncle, Mr. Sonvilakon Sayviseth.

Uncle and niece
UNICEF Laos/2022/IKarakaya
Vinna (L) and her uncle Mr. Sonvilakon Sayviseth pose in this photo taken in the CBSR centre in Maknao village of Saravane province

Mr. Sayviseth, is a 32-year-old rice farmer and a parent who has witnessed the impact of CBSR in first-hand. He also talked to other parents whose children is also aged between three to five years old and told them about what their children can learn if they receive early childhood education.

“Children who receive early childhood education learn better and perform better in the primary school,” Mr. Sayviseth said. “When I was a child, I did not have the chance to receive early childhood education. My dream is for children to have decent quality education and complete at least their upper-secondary education. After that, it is up to them what they choose to do but it is our responsibility to give them a good foundation,” he concluded.