The UXO Education and Awareness Project began in 1996 with a primary school curriculum that aimed to reduce injury and death from unexploded ordnances (UXO) by informing school-age children on how to protect themselves and their peers. The project, which partners with the Ministry of Education and Sports, the Teacher Training Department, the Provincial Education Service, and the District Education Bureau, now reaches 42 districts, over 9,000 teachers, and over 250,000 students in Laos.
Through the UXO Education and Awareness Project, World Education Laos facilitates Trainings of Trainers (TOTs) in order to teach in-service educators how to utilize the UXO Awareness curriculum in their classrooms (grades 1-5). At a central level, World Education Laos also trains professors at eight Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs) about key UXO safety information that can be brought to any classroom after their students graduate and enter the workforce as teachers. WEL has developed a comprehensive UXO curriculum which includes a teacher guide, storybooks, songbooks, and posters for each grade (1-5). Our curriculum emphasizes participatory learning that features student-centered activities and messages that are easy to understand and recall.
In 1999, with startup funds from the Arts and Healing Network, World Education Laos contracted with the National Puppet Theater of Laos to train teachers and the first puppetry troupes in the four target provinces of Xieng Khouang, Houaphan, Savannakhet and Saravane Provinces. Subsequent funding from UNICEF, USAID and WRA has continued the development of the puppetry teams, transitioning to involving experienced teacher puppetry team leaders as trainers for teams in districts entering the UXO Education and Awareness Program.
Puppetry has been a traditional method for entertainment and community education in remote villages without electricity. These same villages are also high-risk areas for UXO. World Education Laos’ puppetry program involves children in high-UXO risk communities to develop puppet performances to bring the education about UXO out of the classroom and into the communities. Since many of the communities with the highest UXO impact are in ethnic minority areas where adults are not literate or fluent in spoken Lao, the children’s puppet performances in the local language educate the adults and out-of-school youth in these villages. Currently, there are more than 70 active puppetry troupes that perform at their own school and neighboring village schools as well as at district and province events such as International Children’s Day and Lao National Teacher’s Day events.