A push for the vaccination of children in Laos is gaining momentum after inaccessible remote and online learning systems have kept children out of schools for almost a year.
Low internet penetration and other issues, including budget constraints, have made the transition to online education difficult for students and teachers at public schools.
Deputy Director of the Vientiane Capital Department of Education and Sports, Mr. Somphone Sonedara, told the media last month that “while teachers were well prepared for the new academic year, many schools face difficulties with online learning systems due to an insufficient budget for supporting the infrastructure required,” said Deputy Director Somphone.
Large numbers of students across every province in Laos are unable to afford smartphones or laptop computers, making accessing online resources impossible.
Despite these setbacks, education authorities have pushed ahead in launching the country’s first national digital teaching and learning platform, Khang Panya Lao, according to Vientiane Times.
The platform, which was developed with support from UNICEF and the European Union, and the Global Partnership for Education, was launched by the Ministry of Education and Sports yesterday.
Khang Panya Lao sees lessons and information available via the web or as an app for Android devices, providing access to official curriculum textbooks and other materials.
But without an internet connection or compatible device, the remote learning application remains beyond the reach of many.
Now, authorities hope that after opening vaccinations to children from 12 to 17 years, schools could soon re-open for in-person education.
Dr. Lattanaxay Phetsouvanh, Director-General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control, says his ministry is working with the Ministry of Education to collect information on how many students are able to access remote learning facilities and the quality of education provided.
With students in many provinces falling further and further behind, the government will expand its vaccination program to include school-age children, depending on how many vaccines can be allocated.
Vientiane Times reports that vaccinations for children will only be provided to those whose parents have given consent, with children in red zones being given priority.
Sinopharm and other vaccines will be administered to children at both private and public schools, while those with underlying health conditions will be given the Pfizer vaccine.