One of BEQUAL’s outcomes is that teachers and students in remote and disadvantaged communities are in schools and classrooms that provide a safe, hygienic, inclusive and well equipped learning environment.
The main focus in BEQUAL’s first year has been the rehabilitation of classrooms and toilets at 392 priority schools in 21 of the poorest districts in Phongsaly, Houaphan, Oudomxai and Luangnamtha, Sekong and Attapeu provinces.
The repairs were undertaken using a community-based contracting model whereby the school manages the repairs using community labour supervised by BEQUAL engineers, rather than to use external contractors.
Many school repairs are needed, as original construction sometimes used poor quality materials or workmanship. For example, school roofs may leak because the correct roof sheeting with necessary thickness may not have been available during construction. These repairs will replace all rusted sheeting.
At the time of construction, many schools were in very remote locations and could only be accessed on foot, and in many cases dirt floors were all that was available. The repairs will replace dirt with concrete floors where possible, making the classrooms cleaner and more pleasant places for children to learn.
The original blackboards were made from painted plywood making writing difficult. New painted metal blackboards will replace damaged plywood blackboards making them easier to both write on and read from.
At some schools sanitation systems such as water supply to the toilets had failed. The repairs will ensure students and staff have access to operational water facilities including toilets.
BEQUAL has recruited 18 infrastructure technical supervisors who will train Provincial Education and Sport Services and District Education and Sports Bureau staff as well as Village Education and Development Committees on this community approach to school rehabilitation.
Community-based contracting training workshops were held at Thalat, Oudomxai, Houaphan and Attapeu for 80 central, provincial and district financial and technical staff involved in implementation. The infrastructure technical supervisors and District Education Service Board staff visited 392 schools to provide financial and technical training to the Village Education and Development Committees with more than 1200 villagers trained. This village capacity building is considered one of the strengths of the community approach as the skills stay within the village, improving its sustainability and its ability to maintain their schools in the future.
Regular visits by BEQUAL engineers, and District and Provincial Units for Construction and Development Assistance monitor quality of rehabilitation works. BEQUAL has also introduced the COSMOS database system, whereby all photographs taken of the repair works are tagged with the GPS coordinates, time and date, then uploaded to an internet-accessible cloud database. This provides confidence that the repairs have been undertaken at the targeted schools and provides timely reporting of progress.
BEQUAL is also providing limited infrastructure support to Teacher Training Colleges at Luangnamtha, Saravan and Savannakhet where ethnic teachers are being trained through BEQUAL. Scoping surveys have been undertaken at the Teacher Training Colleges with preliminary designs for improvements planned for the student boarding facilities.