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Lao People's Democratic Republic: Newsline
UNICEF and partners lay new foundations for education with child-friendly schools in Lao PDR
BAN DONGE, Lao PDR, 8 April 2008 – The residents of Ban Donge in Xieng Khuang Province are accustomed to the foreign tourists who drop by to have a look around their village. However, the most recent group of visiting foreigners was welcomed with a grand spectacle that included local students performing Lao and Japanese dances, a gymnastics demonstration and even a recital by a famous Japanese violinist.
These events were part of an inauguration ceremony for a series of new child-friendly schools in two provinces of northern Laos. The schools are meant to improve access to basic education, and to symbolize the rebuilding of communities in an area once devastated by war.
“The old school was dusty and cold during the winter, and the latrine was dirty because there wasn’t enough water, so nobody wanted to go to school,” says student Sipha Dabouddy, 11. “The new one is more comfortable and has more learning materials.”
Partnership for development
In Ban Donge, the single-story cement structure has been designed to meet the standards required by UNICEF’s child-friendly schools initiative. This entails, among other things, the creation of sufficient space for groups of children to work together in class, the installation of a safe water source, the construction of separate toilets for boys and girls and the provision of quality school materials.
“I hope children attending the new school building use this as a first step for making each of their dreams come true. It is my sincere hope that this school will be a centre for this community and will be filled with the bright smiles of the children,” said AEON President Motoya Okada.
Together, AEON and JCU have provided $3.4 million for schools in Laos. The partners were able to construct 30 schools in 2007, bringing the total number of AEON and JCU-supported primary schools in Lao PDR to 62.
Looking to the future
At the event, UNICEF Representative in Lao PDR Laila Ismail-Khan remarked on the critical role played by the local community in creating child-friendly learning environments that are participatory and creative.
The child-friendly schools concept is being adopted as part of a national education strategy in the country. Teachers are being trained to design curricula using child-centred learning approaches, with a particular focus on multi-grade teaching and hygiene education.
“Every child has limitless potential, and education draws out and nourishes that potential,” said JCU Executive Director Ken Hayami. “It is the children gathered here today that are the future of Ban Donge, Xieng Khuang Province and Lao PDR. They represent the hopes of this community.”