Educational development in rural Laos is facing challenges in all aspects, especially so in the southern province of Attapeu where the enrollment rate in elementary school is very low compared to that of the capital city of Vientiane, where almost 100% of elementary school children are enrolled. In addition to limited educational opportunity, Attapeu students also have an increasingly high drop-out rate, currently at 25%, as poverty prevents them from remaining in school. The rest of the enrolled students graduate with low educational quality, due to insufficient and unqualified teachers as well as shortages of teaching materials, school supplies and building.
According to an anonymous provincial educator, classrooms are overcrowded. In some schools, between 111 to 115 students share one teacher in a classroom where they have to take turn sitting down at their desks so that they can copy what the teacher writes down on the blackboard.
Thus, Attepeu is one of three southern provinces chosen to benefit from an assistance worth $9 million provided by the U.S. government to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to fund the expansion of its School Feeding Project over the course of three years.This funding budget is aimed to provide food to at least 25,000 children enrolled in 323 schools in 11 districts in Attapeu province to prevent them from dropping out school due to poverty. The other two assistance reciepients are Saravane and Sekong provinces.
Mr. Ravic Huso, the U.S. Ambassador to Laos, has in the past provided similar assistance to Laos school children via the World Food Program. In all, the U.S. and the WFP have provided food to more than 380,000 children as well as their families in many Lao rural areas since 2005.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.