Funded by the U.S. government, the Comprehensive Mine Risk Education (MRE) Project aims to reduce injury and death from unexploded ordnance (UXO) by informing school-age children about how to protect themselves and their peers. Formerly known as the UXO Education and Awareness Project, World Education (WEI) began developing a primary school curriculum about UXO safety in 1996. While the number of UXO accidents in Laos has decreased significantly since that time, children represented 53% of UXO casualties from 2016 to 2018, which demonstrates a continuing need to disseminate MRE to children. Today, the project reaches young people at risk of UXO accidents through curriculum in the formal education system as well as through puppetry performances at the community level. The overall emphasis is on building the capacity of the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) to manage MRE in the future. In the current three-year project period (2018-2020), the MRE project added Bolikhamxay as a target province and now reaches all 88 districts in Xieng Khouang, Luang Prabang, Houaphan, Khammouane, Sekong, Champassak, Savannakhet, Saravane, Attapeu, and Bolikhamxay provinces. Project activities include:
- Supporting the Government of Laos to integrate MRE into the national primary school curriculum, enabling over 500,000 children in 5,820 primary schools to receive messages about UXO safety;
- Developing a new handbook for teaching MRE in secondary schools;
- Ensuring 3,800 student teachers in the eight Teacher Training Colleges throughout Laos will learn how to teach MRE in primary schools.
- Enabling 220 puppetry troupes in primary schools to disseminate MRE to thousands of fellow students and community members throughout Laos.
WEI has developed a comprehensive UXO curriculum which includes a teacher guide, storybooks, songbooks, and posters for each primary school grade (grades 1-5). In the current project period, WEI is supporting MOES to integrate MRE lessons into the national primary school science and environment curriculum. As part of the national curriculum, MRE lessons will reach every primary school student in Laos. The MRE Project and MOES are also designing and piloting a new secondary school MRE handbook for the first time. The MRE curriculum emphasizes participatory learning, featuring student-centered activities and messages that are easy to understand and recall.
To further ensure the dissemination of MRE, the Project facilitates Trainings of Trainers (ToTs) to teach in-service teachers how to utilize the MRE curriculum in their classrooms. WEI also works closely with the eight Teacher Training Colleges of Laos (TTC) to develop MRE teacher training materials, support professors to teach MRE, include MRE in summer refresher courses for in-service teachers, and ensure all final year TTC students are prepared to teach MRE.
To complement the in-school MRE, the MRE puppetry program involves children and teachers from high-UXO risk communities to develop puppetry performances to bring the education about UXO out of the classroom and into communities. In 1999, WEI contracted the National Puppet Theater of Laos to train teachers to establish the first MRE puppetry troupes in Xieng Khouang, Houaphan, Savannakhet and Saravane Provinces. Today, WEI has worked with MOES to establish more than 88 troupes which perform on Teacher’s Day and Children’s Day, reaching between 70,000 and 80,000 community members each year throughout the 10 target provinces. Based on the success of these troupes, WEI will increase the number of puppetry troupes to 220 during the current project period to deliver MRE to even more community members and provide an engaging complement to the formal curriculum.