Thursday 20 August 2015

Ni Amphone, a 15-year old Prai ethnic girl, is the first person in her family to enter a lower secondary school.

Ni is a member of Prai, an ethnic group that makes up about 0.4%[1] (about 22,000 people) of the entire Lao population. Every day, Ni has to get up earlier than her family members in order to engage in household chores such as fetching water, cleaning the house, doing the dishes, and preparing breakfast for her family members.

Ni has a large family, comprising of 7 members: her father, mother, 3 siblings, and one brother-in-law, and Ni. She is the fourth child – the youngest one.

The main source of income for the family is from working in the field; and, during every school break, she has to go to the field every day to work and support her family. It is, therefore, hard for her parents to send children to school.

For Ni to be able to continue her education after primary school, her parents had to endure certain financial burdens that they could not afford. Her 3 siblings, for instance, were unable to attend a lower secondary school and thus only finished primary education.

“My brother and sisters stopped going to school because my parents did not have money to support them,” stated Ni.

Because Ni’s family is considered the most disadvantaged based on the social and economic criteria scoring for scholarship provision, Save the Children has provided Ni with a scholarship to ensure that her family can meet the basic needs required sfor her education.

“I am very proud to receive a scholarship from Save the Children,”said Ni. She continued, “If not, I would only finish Grade 5 the way two of my siblings did.”

Such scholarship is spent on both school-related expenses and other basic needs for the family.

“Right now, I am preparing to buy some materials for the upcoming semester,” explained Ni. “I have bought one school uniform [Sinh – a Lao skirt & white shirt] and some learning materials such as notebooks, pens, pencil, and a ruler. I expect that this would not be enough, and I have to earn some more money for savings and also for paying some fees for the new semester,” she further explained.

As a burden-lessening approach for a household, scholarship prevents students from skipping classes and dropping out of schools to work for family’s economic wellbeing. Ni confirmed this by saying, “I am very lucky to receive a scholarship unlike when I was in a primary school because I had to skip classes to work. I did not have enough school materials. I also skipped classes to collect tea leaves and reeds [to make brooms for sale] and sold those for some money for school materials.”

Ms. Khamtun Seedalai, a director of Sanaxay-Kiewmixay Lower Secondary School, also explained that scholarship provision helps students to stay in school and thus perform better. She said, “I saw that, after receiving the scholarship, these students have become more studious. They come to school regularly, and they perform well – getting better marks in class.”

Ni is now studying in Grade 6th in Sanaxay-Kiewmixay Lower Secondary School and is on her way to Grade 7th in the upcoming new academic year.

The Lower Secondary Education (LSE) program of Save the Children aims to provide equal access to LSE education, increase the number of students attending schools, improve the quality of teaching in this level, ensure the protection and participation of children, and improve the effectiveness of the governance and management in targeted schools.

This scholarship is made possible through a financial support from Save the Children Korea.

Caption: Ni Amphone is wearing her newlypurchased school uniforms.