Rebuilding schools and lives in Attapeu

Rebuilding schools and lives in Attapeu

UNICEF Laos
10 September 2019
Students of Xiepien lower secondary school
UNICEF Laos/2019/Bart Verweij
Students of Xiepien lower secondary school, now relocated to Mitsamphan, are enjoying their math lesson with new text books provided by Irish Aid

Viengxay Keoinsone, a teacher at Xepien lower secondary school in Sanamxay district, was visiting his parents in Attapeu town when he was woken by the news that tropical storm Son-Tinh that had hit Attapeu Province over the previous week and led to minor flooding in a number of villages had become severe.  “At first, I thought this was the natural flooding, I didn’t know what had happened.” Unknown to Keoinsone, that night overflow from the flooding, released over 5 million cubic metres of water inundating Sanamxay district where Keoinsone’s school is located. Concerned for his students, he visited Xepien school where he taught, to find the flooding to have almost reached the second floor of the building.

There was worse news to come. The flash floods that occurred in July 2018, had affected nearly 7,000 people and displaced over 1,000; a number that would rise to 16,250 over the next few days. Local government buildings and schools were quickly filling with the displaced as they were forced to take shelter where they could.

Keoinsone and his students were relocated to Mitsamphan Primary School, in the town center of Sanamxay district, away from the worst of the flooding. Thirteen villages of the district and 16,256 people were affected by the floods with 6,503 of them being children.

Viengxay Keoinsone teaching one of his students during class
UNICEF Laos/2019/Bart Verweij
Viengxay Keoinsone teaching one of his students during class

Schools became shelters for the displaced. But as temporary shelters were constructed, and food supplies distributed, it was important that UNICEF, Development Partners and the Lao government delivered as much support as possible to children, providing them with some semblance of routine and the psychosocial support they needed. Keoinsone received training in psychosocial support and came to understand the need for his students to return to their familiar routine as quickly as possible, including resuming schooling as soon as possible. “All 44 children in my class had lost their homes. I would talk to my students every day about what had happened. It was difficult, but I wanted them to be sure that they could express themselves, manage their stress properly and that I could answer any questions they asked.”

All the resources of the affected schools had been lost to the floods and it was imperative that new educational materials and learning spaces were made available. Rapid support from Irish Aid allowed UNICEF to actively support the Ministry of Education’s “Back to School” initiative and distribute learning materials to affected schools. Textbooks for 2,300 students were distributed throughout Sanamxay district and new computers and printers were provided for administrative staff and teachers.

Technical equipment provided by Irish Aid are helping teachers prepare lessons and complete administrative work
UNICEF Laos/2019/Bart Verweij
Technical equipment provided by Irish Aid are helping teachers prepare lessons and complete administrative work

Thanks to Irish Aid support via UNICEF, Keoinsone have seen the situation of their students change hugely as students of Xepien’s lower secondary school are now temporarily located at Mitsamphan Primary School. With new school supplies on hand, they can focus on their teaching and supporting those children who still suffer as a consequence of last year’s floods.