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I touch the future, I teach

12 January 2021
I touch the future, I teach

 

When you see this picture, it looks like an ordinary one of two teachers holding their manuals but the story of the Vongkhamdeang is full of love, courage, engagement and hope.

Ajan Pan and Joy Vongkhamdeang are two young teachers, happily married living in Nampouk village, Houesay district, Bokeo province. They are amongst the few biology teachers of lower secondary grade in Monlem village. Their passion for their job made their paths cross. They fell in love and as a couple without children, they dedicate their energy to helping youth acquire the knowledge they need to shape their future.

Ajan Pan has 10 years of experience teaching natural sciences including mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. He received Bachelor Degree from teacher training college in LuangPrabang.

 

The school where he works has 114 students, among them 52 are girls and majority are from the Akha ethnic group. Ajan Pan and Joy built their own dormitory near to the school. 

 

Under the project led by the Ministry of Education and Sports, supported by UNFPA, in 2019, Ajan Pan received a training on the use of the revised teachers’ guidebook on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) based on International Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE). As a master teacher trainer, Ajan Pan started orientation on CSE to teachers including his wife. He encouraged them to talk about sexual and reproductive health. Ajan incorporates activities from the teachers’ guidebook into the Biology course for students focusing on human development, growth, understanding intimate emotions and physical changes for boys and girls.

 

He is keen to educate his students without taboos and ensures they understand well each component of sexual and reproductive health. For example, he takes condoms from the health facility to conduct condoms demonstration to educate students on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS as well as contraception. He works with his wife to prepare teaching materials on CSE. Sometimes they need to be very creative.  For example, to teach girls about menstruation, they cut pieces of paper to make underwear’s while Joy brings her own sanitary pads to show girls how to use them correctly as they start menstruation.

 

“I am proud of myself and my husband. I am proud that we have chosen to be teachers. Each word, each healthy behavior, each drop of knowledge the students learn fulfills us, because it will absolutely impact their future when the times comes to take their own decisions.” says Joy.

 

“I am so honored to lead the comprehensive sexuality program. The students had a complete change in the acceptance of this teaching. They were very shy at the beginning but now they are brave to ask questions and actively participate in the activities. Some students come even with questions on sexual health and hygiene”. Says Ajan Pan.

 

Ajan Pan and Joy put lot of effort to use as much content as possible from the teachers’ guidebook during their Biology classes. However, they face challenges related to the materials needed to conduct the activities. The time dedicated to CSE is also short.  He wishes to see more support from the school management to include CSE with other subjects, not only biology and looks forward to more visits from district and provincial authorities to share feedback and collaborate on possible improvement

 

 Apart from teaching lower secondary students about CSE, Ajan Pan also gets involved in mobilizing girls and boys to stay at school. Few days before we met him, he went with the village authorities to bring an adolescent girl who lives 17 Km away, back to school. She completed primary school, but her parents didn’t want her to continue secondary school because they wanted her to help at home. Ajan Pan and village authorities spent long hours to convince them before they agreed to send her back to school. 

Comprehensive sexuality education programs are implemented in 45 public lower and upper secondary schools in Bokeo province. Since they started, 110 teachers were trained and delivered CSE to 25,000 students across the province. The Vongkhamdeang are delivering CSE in the remote area near the Myanmar border, in Moueng district which is considered amongst the poorest in Bokeo Province. 

 

As part of achieving the Sustainable development goals and the International conference on population and development commitment (ICPD25) UNFPA is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Sports to integrate Comprehensive Sexuality Education nationwide through age-appropriate curriculum in primary, secondary and technical and vocational education and training institutions. UNFPA aims to mobilize further expertise as well as partners including from private sector and International NGOs to scale up the coverage of quality CSE delivered, by qualified teachers to every young girl and boy. Leaving no one behind: in rural areas, in different ethnic groups, amongst poorest households, to those with disabilities and to youth from all sexual orientations and diversity. 

 

 

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UNFPA, the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, works in over 150 countries including Lao PDR, to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning and zero gender-based

 

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Oloth SENE-ASA, 

National Programme Analyst for SRH in UNFPA Laos

Email: sene-asa@unfpa.org