Today in many isolated rural areas in Lao PDR, 47.1% of girls compared to 27.7% of boys have never been to school. More than 50% of ethnic minority girls never attend school. Most only complete two grades and never achieve literacy. More than 4,000 remote villages have no schools. Transition rates are poor. Girls in Lao PDR make up 43% of primary enrollment but only 37% of secondary and 17% of university enrollment.
Since 2008, the Lotus Educational Fund Ltd in partnership with Dr. Phoudalay Lathvilavong have been involved in supporting the promotion of girl’s literacy in Southern Laos. Through the generosity of the Australian community, 44 girls were carefully selected to attend one of the six schools in the district known as Km 35 in Champhone district in the province of Savannakhet. Seven years later, the girls have just completed their first year of Secondary school while in 2013 another group of 40 seven year old girls commenced Grade One.
The success of the Lotus project is twofold; first, we have established a strong intercultural partnership with the local community through the supportive efforts of Dr Phoudalay and secondly, we have been fortunate to have the generous financial and personal support of people across different communities in Australia, Japan, Thailand and Laos.
Most recently, the school community at St Therese’s Primary School, New Lambton has donated $10,000 towards the secondary girls fund which will secure the girls in finishing their schooling and establish a St Therese’s University Scholarship. Lotus is very appreciative for the continued support of the St Therese’s community.
It is a well known fact that girls in Laos face many barriers in attending school. The major barriers include: male preference, attitudes towards girls’ early marriage, negative schooling, cultural taboos, resistance to co-ed classes, school distances that exceed the local security/morality code, teacher absenteeism that puts girls’ security at risk, lack of female teachers, financial and domestic pressures and expectations.
The Lotus Education Fund aims to facilitate and support girls into schools and if possible set up scholarships that will provide an avenue for support should they wish to continue their studies at a tertiary level in Savannakhet or Vientiane.