On April 26, I met with SouLy from SEDA in Vientiane, Lao to visit one of the schools in Ban Phao (or Phao village) that received funding for renovation. Everyone at the school knew SouLy and greeted her upon arrival. She had been working with this specific school and village for some time.
This village's income generation is mainly from rice production, cassava, vegetables, and potatoes. The town consists of mostly farmers supplying these items to cities. In this town, there is an elementary and middle school but no high school - the children have to go to the next town for high school.
Walking around, I could hear laughter see kids playing and teachers congregating. A horn was blown, and the kids were being called back to class. These classrooms were no longer held in huts, but in solid structures allowing the children to study and learn in a sturdy and safe environment.
I sat with two of the students who spoke to me about SEDA and the volunteers SEDA brought through to teach – they said they learned a lot of things like English, numbers, months, fruit, and conversation in English. One girl even said her favorite subject was English because it helped her to understand others that speak it. The teachers were happy to sit and speak with us also sharing their needs now with us - the school now needed science equipment to turn theory into practice, books, a library and computers.
I would like to thank SEDA and SouLy for her support and hospitality in accompanying me to visit this school and experience how GlobalGiving funds were used.
Education in Laos reflects its diverse history, from the domination of the temple (vat) education system, through to the colonial era, the revolution, and the present-day drive for economic growth. Under French rule, there was a lack of investment in educational infrastructure for native Laotians, and the traditional vat education system provided the only access to education for ordinary people. Despite increasing investment mid-century, low literacy levels remained until 1975 when the government launched its infrastructure and literacy drive. Literacy levels shot up, but the previous underinvestment in infrastructure and human resources limited how sustainable this growth was.
In 1986, the government launched the ‘New Economic Mechanism’ to move from a centrally planned to a market-oriented economy. This reform explicitly pinpointed education as a prime driver in economic growth. Education levels and infrastructure saw some modest improvement, but again there was a limit to this growth, especially in rural areas.
Market-orientated reforms continued throughout the 1990s and despite some successes, there was actually an increase in educational inequality. This was most apparent in the increasing urban/rural divide, dating back to colonial days and the vat system before that.
Merely 64.5% of males and 59.6% females in rural areas are in primary education; however, the figure for urban children is as high as 82% for both males and females. This leaves just 57.3% of rural males and 51.3% of rural females in attendance in primary education. The disparity becomes even starker once socio-economic class is taken into account.
How Is SEDA Fighting This?
SEDA believes the lack of sustainable growth in Lao education systems is caused not by a lack of will but by a lack of infrastructure to consolidate government investment and strategy. This is particularly true in rural, outlying communities. The lack of historical investment in rural Lao infrastructure will no longer be an excuse to deny Lao children a primary education.
SEDA recognizes this and is deep in consultation with Ban Oun-Yai Village, Lao Ngarm District, and Salavan Province. We have selected one school in the village, and we are working closely with the School Principle, Village Committees, and the District of Education to select and deliver construction materials for school renovation.
Upon successful completion of this project, SEDA will engage with the other schools in the Lao Ngarm District in need of infrastructure development. We are currently in need of funds to allow us to reach as many rural children as possible, and we are in the process of beginning consultation with village committees.
SEDA realizes the scale of the project ahead but will not use that as an excuse not to fight for the right of every rural child to a primary education. This project is essential if SEDA is to do its part to achieve Goal 2 of the Millennium Development Goals—the right to universal primary education.
Please show your support for the children of Ban Oun-Yai Village by donating through Global Giving or directly to SEDA through our PayPal account.
SEDA and the Ban Phao and Ban Hai villages would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has donated to this project.
Thanks to your generous donations, and help from a private donor and the Lao PDR Government, we have been able to complete the renovations at both schools.
The children of Ban Phao village have also benefited from volunteer English teacher Will Thomason, who has recently finished teaching an 8 week summer school program.
Head teacher at the Ban Phao school, Mr Khan told SEDA:
“The children are delighted with their new school and learnt a lot from Will. We were very sad to see him leave. We really hope that we can work with SEDA and Global Giving donors to keep making improvements.”
Continuing to improve education:
SEDA’s work improving education is not finished. Following the successes in Ban Phao and Ban Hai, over 100 schools in Laos have asked to work with SEDA on renovations and providing school materials.
We still need your help to reach our goals and make a real difference to education in Laos. SEDA would be grateful if donors could send a nominal donation, from just $10, to the new education projects listed on Global Giving, to keep the work going and to receive updates on all the great things that are happening.
We also welcome comments, feedback and suggestions from donors. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elementary school children in the Ban Phao village, 56 km outside of Vientiane, have been enjoying their brand new classrooms.
Six classrooms were built with money donated from a private donor from Korea, and have made a huge difference to the school and the children’s education.
Now SEDA needs help to raise the money to renovate the Junior High classrooms.
The classrooms were built over 30 years ago, and suffered a lot of damage during the war. The rooms are in a terrible state of disrepair, without windows, with old equipment, and with poorly constructed walls. This makes teaching the children very difficult.
To renovate the buildings and give these children the chance for a decent school, SEDA needs to raise $25,000-29,000.
The village also needs help raising money to build a library for the children. Teachers really want the children to be passionate about reading, but have to house their few books in the teacher’s conference room. Headmaster, Mr Khan dreams of having a dedicated library so that they learn to love books.
It is with sadness that the children at the school wave goodbye to their English teacher: SEDA volunteer Will Thomason.
Will has been volunteering at the village for 8 weeks for the summer school program, and during that time he has made a huge impression on the kids; improving their English language, building confidence and motivating them so that the really enjoy going to school.
The volunteer program has been so successful that the school’s headmaster, Mr Khan told us that he wants SEDA’s help to recruit a volunteer to teach for the whole school year.
SEDA need’s to raise funds to recruit volunteers and cover their basic living expenses.
To find out more about volunteer opportunities with SEDA please look here:
Some renovations to the Ban Phao school have been undertaken. This is due to generous contributions from private funders.
The principle of the school reported that six rooms in the building have been renovated and desks, chairs and fans for the classrooms have been purchased.
The before and after pictures in this posting show the much improved learning conditions. SEDA hopes to continue to support education in the Ban Phao community and make further improvements to the students education! This can only happen through your generous contributions.
Many thanks to our generous supporters who have taken us this far!
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Thanks to 48 donors like you, a total of $6,984 was raised for this project on GlobalGiving.
Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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