GVI Laos has just completed the first 4 weeks of Term 1 2012 teaching English at Wat Pha-O Buddhist Secondary School - a newly purpose built school in the Pha-O village about 20 minutes north of Luang Prabang. GVI Project Manager was asked personally by the Abbot of Wat Pha-O, Satu Ongeo, to organize the implementation of an English Program in the school. Satu Ongeo has welcomed the GVI volunteers to work there. This invitation is indicative of the good name that GVI has within the Sangha Education Community as Satu Ongeo is one of the High Monks in Luang Prabang. He holds responsibity for the secondary education of Novices and Monks in all of Luang Prabang.
Satu Ongeo has been the driving force in getting the school built on the property of Wat Pha-O, a beautiful forested large piece of land, bordered on one side by the Mekong River and on the other by dramatic limestone cliffs dense with growth. From the classroom windows this vista is breathtaking. It was a purposeful intention to build a new school outside of Luang Prabang in a rural environment so Novices would have less distraction in their lives compared to what they experience in living in temples in Luang Prabang with the increased tourism and growth.
Wat Pha-O School is home to over 270 Novices. The vast majority of the Novices living and attending school at Wat Pha-O are from the northern provinces of Laos and typically come from poor farming families. Whilst doing merit for their families and learning the Dharma by becoming a Novice, there is the added benefit of receiving a better education than would be found in their villages. Wat Pha-O is well known within the Luang Prabang Buddhist community due to hosting a yearly meditation retreat for hundreds of Monks, Novices, Nuns and lay people.
GVI’s teaching has begun at the commencement of the academic year, a wonderful opportunity to measure the growth of the students’ English abilities. Students have been organized into 6 classes of approximately 25 students per class for 5 afternoons per week, 2 hours per day. This is a significant increase in English tuition compared to the Buddhist Secondary School in the heart of Luang Prabang where the students only receive 1.5 hours per week English teaching due to a low capacity of English teachers on staff.