Widespread flooding in Laos in recent weeks has blocked the start of the school year in the Southeast Asian country, with as many as 1,000 schools left unable to open by the Sept. 3 beginning of the new term, Lao sources say.
Speaking to RFA’s Lao Service on Aug. 30, an official of the Ministry of Education and Sports said that most primary and secondary schools in the country will not open next week.
“These facilities are still flooded,” RFA’s source said, declining to be identified by name. “When the water recedes, workers will clean up the schools and the teaching materials, and will fix broken chairs and tables.”
Hundreds of schools in 14 out of 18 provinces in Laos are now flood-damaged, with about a dozen schools in Xaythany district in the capital Vientiane still partly submerged, one source said.
Both the northern and central parts of Laos have borne the brunt of nonstop rains since Aug. 26, with the deluge intensifying since Tuesday, destroying bridges and roads and flooding nearly all provinces in the region.
Meanwhile, operators of the Nam Ngun 1 dam near the capital Vientiane have been releasing additional water for the last several days, causing severe flooding of homes and rice fields in villages in Vientiane province and in the capital itself.
In Attapeu province’s Sanamxay district, flooded earlier this month following the breach of a containment dam at a nearby hydropower project, only 315 upper high school students will go to school on Monday, while 577 primary and junior high school students will have to wait because they have no schools to go to.
Some district schools are being used as temporary shelters for people displaced by the flood, while others have either been damaged or covered with mud.
“For this 2018-2019 school year, we are giving priority to high school students because we don’t have enough schools,” district governor Bounhome Phommasarn told RFA on Aug. 31.
“We will have to build new schools and move dam-break victims out of the old schools to place them or have them live in tents,” he said, adding, “We will try to open schools for the rest of the students no later than Oct. 1.”
Also speaking to RFA, Bongkeo Sinnakhone—acting head of the Sanamxay District Education and Sports Department—said that his department is in urgent need of teaching materials, especially text books, notebooks, pencils, pens, tables, and chairs.
“For the flood-affected students, we will also need at least two school buses because the schools are quite far away from their shelters.”
In the capital Vientiane, five out of ten districts are still deluged by heavy rainfall and water released from the Nam Ngum 1 dam, with 31 villages and their schools flooded in Xaythany district alone.
Speaking to RFA on Aug. 29, one villager said, “The schools are still flooded and unable to open, and the water is still rising this morning.”
“We will begin the new school year on Sept. 3,” the head of the district’s Education Department told RFA that same day.
“But some schools will not be able to open until they’re dry, and other schools are now being used as temporary shelters for people displaced by the flood,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.