An poorly funded school system, too little or missing school materials, neglected infrastructure and underpaid teachers are a heavy mortgage for underdeveloped Laos, trapped between the economic powers of China, Thailand and Vietnam. EDF Lao tries to contribute to better education with pragmatic, simple and efficient solutions.
The list of projects that EDF Lao has implemented in recent years is long: from the construction or financing of schools and libraries to the training of teachers and other educational staff to the provision of school materials or the awarding of scholarships, everything is there. What sounds fantastic in the first place, doesn't hide the fact that EDF is still building the foundations of the education system in Laos which the government is not able to build on its own.
For example, libraries (if they exist at all) suffer from the fact that they remain virtually unused because teachers do not know how to give students access to books. When we once visited a primary school, which was just about to move from the old wooden shack into the new building, which was financed by a Korean company donation, we noticed that no toilet was installed in this new building. When we asked the principal what we could do to help him, he said: "No matter what. We lack everything".
EDF Lao, in addition to its original core task of awarding scholarships to secondary school students (the school fees in Laos are paid by the students and their families), has repeatedly convinced us in recent years with exciting ideas. These include the so-called Library Box - a wooden suitcase filled with over 60 books of all kinds. A Library Box costs just 150 dollars - but provides an entire school with reading material for months. For years, EDF has also been trying to remedy the serious shortage of school books by financing additional books for the state. With tens of thousands of primary and secondary school pupils without their own textbooks and costs of around 20 dollars per pupil and year, this is a real Herculean task.
EDF Lao's most recent and so far most extensive undertaking is the "One School, One Computer" campaign, which they have launched with us and which is running as our IT for Laos project. Old but functional hardware is collected in Switzerland and brought to Laos, where all primary and lower secondary schools are to be equipped with it by 2025. You can find out more about this fantastic project here.