Providing access to secondary education for remote villages in Laos
CWS has been working with the Oudomxay Provincial Education Service, in Laos, for more than 20 years, establishing and improving access to education for ethnic minority children from villages in the remote, rural areas of Oudomxay Province.
The people in the villages in this area – who are from the Akha, Hmong, Khmu and Lao ethnic minority groups – are mainly farmers whose livelihoods are based on subsistence agriculture, including paddy and highland rice cultivation, animal husbandry and hunting.
CWS’s assistance in Oudomxay Province has included support for establishing primary and secondary schools, non-formal education, water and sanitation at schools, as well as the provision of teacher training.
Schoolchildren at the Ano Lower Secondary School, one of several schools established in remote Laos with CWS’s assistance. Photo: CWS Laos.
The Ano Lower Secondary School is one of several secondary secondary schools that CWS has helped to establish in northern Laos and one of 5 established in cooperation with Global Ministries (UCC/Disciples). Located in the northeast of the country, 17 miles from center of Lar District, Oudomxay Province, the Ano area is remote and poor. Another is the Nakhok Lower Secondary School, located in the mountainous area of Nga District of Oudomxay Province.
Before 2010, almost none of the children from the villages in the Ano area had access to secondary education beyond Grade 5. It was estimated that among the population of approximately 5,500 people within the area, there were more than 300 children who had completed primary school but had no access to a secondary school education. Because CWS and Global Ministries had established the primary school at Ano some years previously, it was therefore decided to assist with the establishment of a secondary school to serve these children and the others graduating every year after them.
For the success and sustainability of the project, CWS partnered with Global Ministries and helped establish the Ano and Nakhok lower secondary schools (Grades 6-9), complete with classrooms, dormitories for students, housing for the teachers (most of whom needed be brought in from outside the area), a kitchen/dining room and a water and sanitation system.
The Oudomxay Provincial Education Service agreed to provide teachers and the necessary ongoing governmental support for teachers’ salaries and operational costs. Local village leaders also agreed to support the project’s operation by contributing locally available timber and unskilled labor from the villagers.
The new building of the Ano Lower Secondary School. Photo: CWS Laos.
The construction of the Ano Lower Secondary School began in January 2010 and was completed in July 2010. It began its first academic year in September 2010, with Grades 6 and 7. In its first year of operation, six teachers were employed and 102 students attended lessons. In the next academic year, 2011-2012, the number of students increased to 159 students and is expected to rise in subsequent school years.
The new secondary school serves 12 villages in the Ano area with a total population of approximately 5,500. Some of these villages are unfortunately more than 9 miles from the school and some of these villages are without road access. So the dormitories are proving to be very useful for students from these villages, who can stay during the week and avoid a long daily trek to school and back.
The Nakhok Lower Secondary School was similarly established by CWS and Global Ministries, and was built in August 2011 and began its first academic year in September 2011 for Grades 6-8. In its first year of operation there were 12 teachers and 148 students. As with the Ano school, this number will be increasing every year with each new primary school graduating class.
CWS regularly monitors and follows up on both schools and occasionally provides support for their operation. We anticipate that in the coming years the number of students attending the school will increase significantly, probably requiring an expansion of classrooms and dormitory facilities as well as the water and sanitation system.
For the time being, we are glad to be able to provide a small but significant number of ethnic minority children from Lao’s remote hills with access to education to increase their chances to escape from subsistence living and poverty.
Poverty reduction through education, especially in rural ethnic minority communities, is needed on an ongoing basis to provide hope and real opportunities for people to go on to higher education (including university), where they may develop the necessary skills to become teachers, doctors, agronomists, social workers, and so on, and contribute even more towards the development of their communities.