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From farm to school: Maithao gets chance to learn and play

Six-year-old Maithao’s cheeks are blushing pink from running around the school playground, and the freckles on her nose light up as she smiles.

She wraps her arm around her three-year-old sister Pahoa Moue, who shares the same fair features and sweet smile.

“I love going to school,” Maithao (pictured above) says. “It lets me play and have friends.”

It’s Maithao’s first year at the new early childhood school in Homsai village, where she lives, in remote eastern Laos.

The school, built with the support of ChildFund Laos and the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), helps more than 30 children from poor families in the village, including Maithao and Pahoa Moue, prepare to enter primary education.

While Maithao is one of the older students in her class, she is grateful to be surrounded by other children around her age and finally have the opportunity to learn and play.

Before the school was built last year, Maithao spent her days on the family farm with her parents, helping them pull weeds and grow rice and corn.

“Sometimes, we had to stay at the farm for many days before coming back home,” Maithao says.

“I am very happy that I have started going to school. I can play in the playground, with the toys and my friends, and I can learn.”

Maithao, 6, and her sister Pahoa Moue, 3, attend ChildFund Laos’ early childhood school in Homsai village, where they learn Lao and English, and develop their creative and social skills.

Children at the school are taught the Lao and English alphabets, and take part in games and arts and crafts to develop their creativity and social skills.

They also get supplementary foods to encourage them to return to school, and to boost their concentration and energy levels throughout the day.

“Some days, when dad is able to shoot animals in the forest, we’ll have meat and good food to eat, but if he can’t shoot anything we only have vegetables and chillies that my mum gets from the farm,” Maithao says. “My friends’ families are also like this. This is how we always do things.”

“I love going to school because I get to have milk and snacks, as well as lunch once a month.”

It’s only been several months since Maithao started her formal education but she’s already come a long way, says her teacher Meexay.

“When she first came to school, Maithao was very shy and she didn’t know the Lao language all that well, but she was friendly and listened attentively,” Meexay says.

“Now, she can read and write the entire Lao and English alphabets, and can sing many songs in Lao.

Meexay says the early childhood school is “long overdue”. It helps children build strong foundations in numeracy and literacy, and supports them in their transition from home to the school environment.

“This school is a valuable treasure to Maithao and her village,” Meexay says.

Maithao believes she and Pahoa Moue are the lucky ones in their family.

“If we had this school a long time ago, my older sisters would have been able to get better educations and better jobs than they have now,” she says.

“I plan to dedicate myself to my studies and I hope that my younger sister, my friends, and all of the children in this village are able to go to school.”

Maithao and Pahoa Moue (centre) with their classmates.

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