Plan to begin ECCD program in Laos
Plan has signed its first formal agreement with the Government of Laos for its five-year, USD 1.2million Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program.
The program will provide support to the Ministry of Education to improve its preschool curriculum and teacher-training methodologies and enable Plan to influence key decision-makers in both government and donor agencies, as well as ensuring increased attention and investment in early childhood in general. Currently, only 3 percent of the education budget in Laos is allocated to preschooling and a very small slice of this funding reaches the poorest rural areas.
The program will also fund construction projects, including water and sanitation schemes, equipment, educational supplies and teacher training for 21 preschools in Sangthong District and Bokeo Province.
Bokeo Province — two days’ travel north by road from the capital Ventiane and home to several of the country’s poorest districts — will be Plan’s main longterm program area.
Using ECCD as a gateway
Plan Laos Country Director Terence McCaughan said: “We aim to use the Early Childhood Care and Development program as a ‘gateway’ in two senses.
“First, Plan Laos will use the experience and relationships gained through our early education work to design and establish further programs, with primary education, early nutrition and child development, community water and sanitation, national early childhood policy and child protection and participation schemes all planned.
“Second, the formal agreement gives Plan essential Government permission for staff to have direct contact with communities in Bokeo, and so to prepare for Child-Centered Community Development processes and child and ‘alternative’ sponsorship here.”
Aid agencies in Laos require official approval for all activities; for consultations with communities as well as for project implementation. Agencies must always work in very close partnership with local officials.
Although primary school enrollment is now at 80 percent, many children drop out in Grades One and Two. Only half of Laos’ children complete all four years of primary school and, even then, many are functionally illiterate. Malnutrition is high, with 40 percent of children underweight, stunted and suffering from vitamin A deficiencies.
“Preschool work is just a start,” added Plan Laos Education Program Manager Vongmany Vongphachanh. “We must also ensure that babies and infants have proper nutrition and plenty of care and stimulation. Learning and healthy development start at birth.”
Give children a chance to learn