Project Document Project Title: Remote Village Education Support Project (RVESP) Implementing Organisation: Global Association for People and the Environment (GAPE) The Communities: 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. Contact Persons: 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) Mailing Address: Global Association for People in the Environment (GAPE), P.O. Box 860, Pakse, Lao PDR or 2 1235 Basil Ave., Victoria, B.C., Canada V8T 2G1 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 3 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 in: 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 4 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 trainings. 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 5 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. 6 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 target villages. Personnel: 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; ethnic Lao), 7 6) Mr. Khampanh Keovilaysak (ethnic activities, monitoring and reporting; ethnic Brao). They all work closely with three counterparts from the Education Office of Pathoumphone District, Mr. Khamphoun, Mr. Sivixay and Mr. Kapkeo.
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