Remote Village Education Support Project (RVESP)
Global Association for People and the Environment (GAPE)
28 villages in Pathoumphone District, Champasak Province, southern Lao PDR
are participating in the project. These communities are among the most remote,
vulnerable, poor and under-served by government services in the area. There
are approximately 12,847 people in these 28 villages, of which 6,527 are women.
There are nine villages populated by ethnic minorities, and 5 ethnicities are
represented among the 28 villages.
The 28 villages all have similar challenges in their access to government
services, such as education, health care, clean drinking water, markets and
roads. All the communities face an array of problems unique to their locations,
social and cultural situations, history and environmental surroundings. Some of
these issues are clearly visible for villages situated in or near National
Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCAs), in mountainous terrain, and beside
new logging and trade routes. These challenges are also important for villages
with high birth rates, rapid population expansion, and a mix of ethnicities.
However, all communities have a high number of people who have expressed a
keen interest in learning new techniques that will help them to help themselves.
Ms. Emma Townsend-Gault, Project Coordinator (responsible for day to
day activities of the project)
Mr. Ian Baird, Executive Director, GAPE (coordination support and ethnic
minority and environmental education support)
Global Association for People in the Environment (GAPE),
P.O. Box 860,
Pakse, Lao PDR
1235 Basil Ave.,
Victoria, B.C., Canada
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Duration of Project:
The first two-year phase was from early 2001-2003. The second three-year
phase will end in early 2006.
Value of Project:
The project has been steadily increasing its annual budget, bringing in new
funders as local capacity increases. In 2002-2003 the project spent around US$
79,000, and in 2003-2004 the budget increased to nearly US$ 94,000. Total
project expenditure over the 3 years of the second phase of the project is
expected to be at least US$ 210,000.
As it stands, The RVESP has several funders: the main ones are The McKnight
Foundation, Bread for the World, Oxfam America, The Lao PDR/Canada Fund,
The Global Greengrant Foundation and The New Zealand Embassy.
Project Background and Context:
This project has been partially developed based on the past experiences of the
Executive Director of GAPE, Ian Baird, who has worked on community
development, natural resource management, and education support projects in
Khong District, Champasak Province since 1993. His experiences in Khong
District have indicated the types of activities and support that are likely to have
positive results in this part of Laos. Moreover, his experiences in southern Laos
have indicated that the education sector is relatively weak there, but that there is
great potential for improving the situation if some external support is provided.
After GAPE decided that the education sector would be the best one to
concentrate on, GAPE representatives entered into discussions with the director
of the Education Division of the Province. He identified Pathoumphone as a
district with special needs and many problems within the education sector. The
Education Division also indicated that Pathoumphone is a priority district in terms
of education, and that the government has been trying to mobilize resources to
address the problem of low school attendance, low quality teaching, a lack of
school materials and inadequate school facilities. Only 75.9% of children of
primary school age were attending school. This represents a serious problem,
since one out of four of the children in the district are not receiving any formal
education. Education is certainly the key to human capacity development, which
in itself is the key to development. This is the second lowest score for any of the
10 districts in Champasak Province; the provincial average is 85%. It was also
noted that a considerably lower number of girls were attending school in the
district compared to boys. The promotion of education for girls was and
continues to be a general priority for the project.
Before GAPE starting working in Pathoumphone in 2001, there had never been
an extensive NGO or other donor-supported education oriented initiative in
Pathoumphone District, and apart from what GAPE has provided, the district has
received very little support in terms of education.
It is important to recognise that Pathoumphone District is one of Champasak
Province’s most extensive districts, and that it is the home of two of the country’s
most important National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCAs) – Xe Pian
NBCA and Dong Houa Sao NBCA. Vast areas of primary forest are still found in
the district. Therefore, the Education Division of the Province has placed
environmental education for primary level students as one of the priority areas
targeted for support.
Project Description and Content:
Based on local priorities, the present are the main areas that the project is active
1) Support for and provision of basic construction materials to renovate and
build primary schools in remote villages. Many schools were in very poor
condition, and were close to falling down. This continues to be an ongoing
activity. Villagers provide all the wood or bricks for construction, as well as
the labour, and only cement for school floors, steel support bars, nails,
hinges, locks and zinc roofing sheets are provided. Support for each
school averages about US$ 2,500.
2) Support for providing basic school materials. There are few books or
other learning materials available in primary schools in the district, apart
from the most basic texts used as a part of the standard curriculum.
Children have little opportunity to read books of interest, and thus few
become very enthusiastic about reading. In the past years mobile
libraries, community libraries, blackboards and some chairs and desks
have been provided to over 20 villages, and GAPE is working to support
the remaining villages in this way.
3) Support for providing vocational training to an increasing number of
people in target villages. 2 week, 1 month and 3 month courses are
presently being offered at the Km 15 Non-Formal Education Centre, based
outside of Pakse. Carpentry training is one area that has been identified
as a priority. It is hoped that trainees could return to their communities
and help construct better quality desks and chairs than have been
available in the past. Sewing training, food preparation skills, and animal
and livestock raising techniques have also proved popular in the villages.
4) Support for pedological trainers working in the district. There are 3
pedological teachers in the district, who are responsible for ensuring that
the quality of teaching meets minimum standards. However, there is no
government budget for them to visit schools in remote areas, and as a
result, the quality of education in those areas is often low. Supporting
transportation costs and other expenses associated with pedological
teachers visiting remote schools more regularly is helping to improve the
quality of teaching for a low cost.
5) Support for providing grade one pedagogical training for teachers. In
recent years, the Lao government has mandated a new method of
teaching in which the students are the centre of learning rather than the
teachers. This progressive policy is worth supporting, but most teachers
have not been able to adapt their teaching methods appropriately. The
province wants teachers to receive additional training, with an emphasis
being put on grade one teachers, to this end GAPE has trained a number
of teachers in these new techniques, and continues to train to this day.
6) Support for providing students with access to environmentally oriented
cartoon books, posters and other materials. The province emphasizes the
importance of this area, especially because many of the remote villages in
Pathoumphone are situated in areas important for biodiversity
conservation. Children especially enjoy materials relating to wildlife and
the natural world.
7) Support for local Lao language environmental video production. The
emphasis is on creating environmentally oriented videos that are easy for
young people to relate to. This is an important activity which has grown in
importance over the years – now GAPE supported videos are being
shown on television, and used in wide variety of locations.
8) Support for environmental education in the project areas. The emphasis
has been to raise the awareness levels of teachers, students and their
parents regarding the importance of sustainable resource management
and environmental conservation. Supporting the co-management of
natural resources has been an important component. Various activities
have been organized, including surveys, study tours, workshops and
9) Support for work helping to raise awareness of ethnic issues, as well as
supporting ethnic communities in their ongoing efforts to retain aspects of
their traditional culture. Activities have included training in traditional
handicrafts, study tours to investigate activities that have been successful
in other parts of Lao, and detailed survey work to uncover which traditions
are still supported by local communities.
10) Support for agricultural work. The target villages all rely on rice for food
security. Rice shortages lead to an increased dependence on the natural
environment. Therefore GAPE works to help improve rice production in
environmentally and culturally friendly ways by promoting seed
exchanges, organic composting and bio-extracts. GAPE also supports
training on livestock raising, and in some extreme cases has provided
buffalos to groups of poor farmers.
Recipients of Project Benefits:
Children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old living in target villages will be
the main project beneficiaries, as well as primary teachers working in the target
villages. There are a total of 2,173 primary students in the 28 target villages in
Pathoumphone District, 1,043 girls and 1,130 boys. While most of the children
are ethnic Lao, there are also children from four other distinct ethnic groups. All
the recipients are from rural subsistence and semi-subsistence farming families.
More indirectly the community as a whole will benefit from increasing standards
of education, while certain targeted individuals showing willing to work for the
betterment of the community will be recipients of vocational training, health
training, or veterinary skills training.
Participants in Project:
1) Global Association for People and the Environment (GAPE)
2) Pathoumphone District Education Office
3) Champasak Province Education Services
To-date and Anticipated Results of Project:
1) The quality and quantity of basic school facilities has been improved by
the project. To date, over 10 schools have been built, and another 10 have
been repaired. RVESP has also helped repair some schools in villages not
in the immediate target area. By the end of the project’s second phase
another 8-10 schools will have been constructed.
2) The project has also begun an on-going commitment to improving the
quality of primary level teaching, and the quantity of teachers trained to a
high level. In the last few years over 100 teachers have received some
form of training, and 7 teachers have received yearlong scholarships. This
training has led to a higher level of skill demonstrated by primary school
teachers in the target villages, and around the district.
3) Due to project work, a higher percentage of children have been attending
primary school. This is in part due to campaigns to raise awareness of the
importance of primary education, and in part due to the increased quality
of teaching and basic school facilities. The high profile that the project has
in the target villages has raised expectations in the village for all school
age children to attend school. The provision on books, school materials
and sports equipment has encouraged the students themselves to attend.
4) The awareness levels of students, teachers and parents regarding the
need to sustainably manage and protect natural resources has been
increasing due to the project.
5) Agricultural activities, such as seed exchanges, rice and buffalo banks,
and livestock raising training, have and continue to help farmers in the
target area. Increased yields, wider varieties, and longer lives of healthier
animals contribute to improve income generation opportunities, and
increase food products used for subsistence, thus decreasing dependence
on forest and wild life products.
6) Ethnic awareness activities have helped both villages that are
predominantly one ethnicity, and those which are multi-ethnic. Increased
understanding about cultural activities different to ones own, improved
channels of communication, and increasing pride in ethnic differences
have made substantive positive contributions to ethnic relations in the
There are two Canadians working for GAPE on the project:
1) Ms. Emma Townsend-Gault is the Project Coordinator, directly
responsible for day-to-day project activities.
2) Mr. Ian Baird is the Executive Director of GAPE, and is advising the
project and supporting the ethnic minority and environmental education
components of the project.
There are six full-time Lao people working directly for GAPE on the project:
1) Mr. Noukone Ithkeomanivong (Construction support, general project
implementation; English translation; ethnic Souay/Kui)
2) Mr. Bountiem Keophouvong (Planning and reporting, natural resource
management, special projects, general implementation; English
translation; ethnic Jrou),
3) Mr. Somphong Bounphasy, (natural resource management, agriculture
and forestry support, general implementation; ethnic Lao),
4) Ms. Souvanh Bouphasavanh (accounting, vocational training provision,
health activities; ethnic Lao),
5) Ms. Sengphet Vannavilay (accounting, gender activities implementation;
6) Mr. Khampanh Keovilaysak (ethnic activities, monitoring and reporting;
They all work closely with three counterparts from the Education Office of
Pathoumphone District, Mr. Khamphoun, Mr. Sivixay and Mr. Kapkeo.