Rural girls in Laos have fewer opportunities than boys to receive an education as their parents believe that they will be nourished by their husband when they grow up, so they are often married off early.
Parents in rural areas often believe their daughters will be cared for by their husbands, so their life will not have troubles when they get married, an official working at Luang Namtha province’s Non-Formal Education Sector, Ms Fongsavanh Vichaithan observed.
Ms Fongsavanh explained through collecting education information in her province’s rural areas that girls in remote areas often stay at home to take care of their younger brothers or sisters rather than going to school.
Girls also continue failing to attend school as parents among the ethnic groups still have not discarded their old thoughts that girls’ education is less important than boys.
It is commonly believed that girls should stay at home to help their parents doing house work, cook or even help them to plant vegetables in their gardens instead of going to school.
Ms Fongsavanh gave an example of a rural woman who has two sons and a daughter she must earn more than 300,000 kip per month to support her children at school.
Last year, she made a decision to take her daughter out of school because she thinks she will not be poor once she has found a husband.
She said education is more important for the boys who will take care of their parents in the future.
As result of old principles, Ms Phongsavanh said many parents in remote areas across the country are pushing their girls to drop out of school.
Some girls that I found and interviewed cried when their parents forced them to leave school as they want to continue learning as well as enjoying time with their friends at school, Ms Phongsavanh said with disappointment.
However, she stressed that due to a family’s poverty, parents don’t have much money to support their children, and sons often will be chosen to continue studying rather than girls.
It is true that some rural parents have still not discarded their old thoughts that girls will not be able to achieve high positions or good jobs like boys when they grow up, said Mr. Lia Yang, an official at Xaysomboun province’s Non-Formal Education Sector.
Girls will be forced to leave school to help their parents to plant crops or taking care of housework, he recounted recently during a ceremony to mark the completion of the Primary Education Equivalency Programme in Vientiane.
Some rural girls only have the chance to study at primary school or lower secondary school before they leave school to look for other jobs or help their parents at home.
Some get married at just 16 years of age, when they should be enjoying time with their friends at school.
However, Mr.. Lia yang said he hopes that his sector can continue to work with parents to make sure all children in the province at least complete primary school as per the government’s policy.
He is aware that this will be the biggest challenge facing the Ministry of Education and Sports and its development partners to work together with the provinces to ensure that many more children complete primary school as well as pushing them on to higher education.
Currently, the province has about 83 percent of all children attending primary school in his community.
Girls in remote areas still have more limited chances than boys to receive an education because of their families’ poverty.
This remains a challenge when it comes to encouraging equivalency between boys and girls to wipe out illiteracy and promoting higher education.
However, 96 percent of people in Xaysomboun province aged between 15-45 years old have now escaped illiteracy or completed the primary education equivalency programme, leaving only four percent in remote areas.
That is only data to point out education renovation for eliminating illiteracy, but many underprivileged children are still looking forward to the day when they can continue on to higher education.
Consequently, it is time for us to fight for all children in remote areas so that they receive a better education, Mr. Lia said.
Another official at the Ministry of Education and Sports said the ministry is aware of problems across the country where parents want their young daughters to get married instead of going to school.
He said the ministry is now continuing its cooperation with the non-formal education sectors in the provinces to step up efforts to address the challenges and reduce the education gap between girls and boys.
In particular, it is building awareness amongst rural parents to see the importance of a good education for girls to protect their rights later in life.
According to its report last year, the gap between male and female enrolment has also narrowed, from 7 percent to 2 percent.
As a result, expansion of primary and secondary education, and improvements in literacy rates, especially for women, are also still high priorities to ensure women and girls can take longer to enjoy their educational life.
Source: Vientiane Times