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Planting the seeds of education

  • Published at 07:55 pm December 4th, 2018
WT_Dec 3, 2018
Photos: Courtesy

VSO’s specialized program turning Rohingya women into teachers capable of delivering basic education to their community

In response to the Rohingya crisis and to address the need of education for Rohingya children in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, VSO is implementing a program that will equip the Rohingya population to educate themselves, in addition to providing safe spaces for learning for Rohingya children. 

A leading independent international development organisation, Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) works through collaborative efforts of volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. Originally founded in 1958, the organization has had a presence in Bangladesh since 1974.

VSO’s Bangladesh chapter is implementing Education in Emergency (EiE) program at the Jamtali Rohingya Camp (Camp 15) in Cox’s Bazar through partnership with Mukti Cox’s Bazar. The program aims to provide accessible Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) and learning opportunities for Rohingya children in a safe environment. 

Under the EiE program, VSO is aiming to support over 4,200 children aged 3-14 years through home-based ECDE, as well as training at 12 learning centers and raise sexual reproductive health and rights awareness.

VSO’s home-based ECDE program offers an innovative solution to the challenge of inadequate and safe spaces for running the centre-based ECDE program. In the process, the organization involves various stakeholders to play different roles implementing this program.

VSO mobilizes volunteers of different skill sets, from skilled overseas professionals to local youth, building trust, relationships and passing on technical skills. VSO’s intervention will be mobilizing Rohingya communities, youth volunteers from the local (host) community, national and international professional volunteers within VSO’s ‘Relational Volunteering Model’.

For the Rohingya program, VSO currently works with an international volunteer ECDE advisor who provides technical support for the overall program. Three national volunteers work closely with community volunteers from Rohingya and host communities to provide technical input and coaching on ECDE.


Currently, there are 30 community volunteers who engage in delivering education and care to vulnerable Rohingya refugee children. The community volunteers provide coaching and mentorship for the Rohingya ‘Mothers and Big Sisters’ scheme, under which they become capable of delivering ECDE at home. Specialized national and international volunteers teach them how to make and use teaching resources from no cost/low cost local materials.

VSO is working with community volunteers to train 50 Rohingya mothers and sisters. The ‘Mothers and Big Sisters’ is a concept in which VSO involves Rohingya mothers and sisters to provide home-based education for their own children and children in their communities. 

Women trained for this are demonstrating competence to deliver ECDE at home. 50 mothers and sisters received basic ECDE induction and continuous refresher training offered by national and international volunteers with support of community volunteers. The training involved materials on brain development, personal, physical, and emotional development, child safety and protection, health, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. After the training, the women can directly teach their own and neighbouring children at home with support from community volunteers. They also receive regular technical support from the project team.

To support the delivery of home-based ECDE program, VSO has developed several teaching and learning resources. VSO volunteers worked together to develop a ‘Family Booklet’ on Early Childhood Development Education and a MESHGuide – guide for delivery of content in the Family Booklet and also use this booklet and MESHGuide as tools and guidelines to train family, national and community volunteers on ECDE. 

VSO also developed the ‘USTAD’ mobile app, which is equipped with children’s activities, allowing teachers and learning facilitators to use this as a guideline to deliver lessons and to increase access, participation and learning. 

The ‘Sister for Sister’ ECDE approach empowers mothers and sisters through building core teaching and resource making capacities. ‘Mothers and Big Sisters’ learn from each other (peer learning) on creative and play based teaching methods, how to make and use teaching/learning resources made from low/no cost locally sourced materials. This creates high likelihood that mothers and big sisters will easily apply the skills anywhere even when they go back to Myanmar. 

VSO is also helping Rohingya children reclaim their childhood back by building 12 Learning Centres that support enriching children's learning process and competence through community volunteers. This provides learning opportunities for over 1,000 children between 6-14 years. 12 host community and Rohingya youth volunteers work as instructors/facilitators. The community volunteers are following the recommended Learning Curriculum Framework Approach (LCFA).

Recognizing the importance of sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) awareness in the Rohingya camp, VSO is conducting awareness sessions for 2,500 adolescents and youth to address traditional knowledge, attitude and practice towards sexual reproductive health and child marriage among the adolescent girls and boys. 

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