In the ongoing battle against poverty and inequality, education emerges as a pivotal tool. Laos, a Southeast Asian nation with a population of around 7.5 million, has been actively reforming its education sector to enhance access to quality schooling for all children. Despite commendable efforts, a significant number of children in Laos find themselves living on the streets, confronting various dangers and vulnerabilities. This article delves into the prevalence of street children in Laos, the perils they encounter, and how education serves as a key solution to this pressing issue.
Street Children in Laos: A Silent Crisis
Laos grapples with a substantial population of street children, particularly in urban centres like the capital city, Vientiane, as highlighted in a 2018 UNICEF report. Street children in Laos face numerous physical and mental dangers that make their lives extremely challenging. First, living on the streets exposes children to various health hazards, such as malnutrition, infectious diseases, and substance abuse. Moreover, they often lack access to proper sanitation and healthcare services, further exacerbating their health issues. Second, street children are at a high risk of being exploited and abused, both physically and emotionally. They are often targeted by human traffickers and forced into child labour or the sex trade. Third, the harsh conditions faced by street children can lead to severe psychological trauma, depression, and anxiety. These mental health issues can have long-lasting consequences, affecting their overall well-being and ability to reintegrate into society.
Root Causes - Poverty and Migration
The primary driver of the street children crisis in Laos is poverty. Families struggling to meet basic needs often force their children onto the streets. Additionally, a lack of access to quality education perpetuates the cycle of poverty, as children without education have limited opportunities for upward social mobility. Migration from rural to urban areas, driven by the pursuit of better opportunities, often results in unstable employment and housing, leaving children on the streets.
The Transformative Role of Education
As such, education emerges as a potent tool to combat the street children crisis in Laos. Access to quality education equips children with necessary skills and knowledge to break free from the cycle of poverty and overcome the challenges of street life. Education fosters economic prospects and social mobility. Access to quality education also empowers street children and helps secure better employment opportunities and higher standards of living.
- Addressing Exploitation: Education empowers children to recognise and avoid potential dangers like human trafficking and child labour. It provides them with the tools to protect themselves and seek help when faced with exploitation.
- Protecting Mental Well-being: Education serves as a protective factor against mental health challenges faced by street children. By instilling a sense of purpose and belonging, education improves psychological well-being and resilience.
- Facilitating Reintegration: Education equips street children with essential life skills, facilitating their transition from the streets to a more stable environment. It also dispels the stigma associated with being a street child, promoting social acceptance and support.
In conclusion, the street children crisis in Laos is a complex and multifaceted issue, rooted in poverty and a lack of access to quality education. By investing in education and providing support to these vulnerable children living in slums in Asia, it is possible to break the cycle of poverty and reduce their exposure to physical and mental dangers.
- UNICEF. (2018). Situation Analysis of Children in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/laos/reports/situation-analysis-children-lao-people%E2%80%99s-democratic-republic
- Save the Children. (2021). Children in Laos. Retrieved from https://www.savethechildren.org.au/Our-work/Where-we-work/Asia/Laos
- ECPAT International. (2017). Lao PDR Global Monitoring Status of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Retrieved from https://www.ecpat.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Global-Monitoring-Status-of-Action-Lao-PDR-1.pdf
- Sengchanh, S. (2016). Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services in Laos. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealthinnovation.net/innovations/mental-health-and-psychosocial-support-services-laos
- World Bank. (2020). Lao PDR Economic Monitor: Supporting Economic Recovery. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/lao/publication/lao-pdr-economic-monitor-supporting-economic-recovery
- Asian Development Bank . (2019). Migration in the Greater Mekong Subregion: Challenges and Opportunities. Retrieved from https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/533436/migration-gms-challenges-opportunities.pdf
- UNESCO. (2016). Education for people and planet: Creating sustainable futures for all. Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/gem-report/report/2016/education-people-and-planet-creating-sustainable-futures-all
- International Labour Organization. (2017). Ending child labour by 2025: A review of policies and programmes. Retrieved from https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—ipec/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf
- World Health Organization. (2018). Mental health promotion in schools: A comprehensive approach. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/mental_health/maternal-child/schools/en/
- Consortium for Street Children. (2017). Street-connected children and the right to education. Retrieved from https://www.streetchildren.org/resources/street-connected-children-and-the-right-to-education/
Children of the Mekong responds to needs encountered, whether they be social, academic, or economic, mainly through the sponsorship of children. A sponsored child receives monthly support from his sponsor, which allow them to continue their education.
Occasionally, Children of the Mekong also responds to requests for the financing of development programmes, to improve or supplement our activity with impoverished children. These projects aim to improve the living conditions and education of impoverished children, the majority of the time, in addition to the child sponsorship which provides long-term support.
Children of the Mekong does not create its own projects but responds, after assessment, to a local request.