Chanleas Dai Community Update
by Maryann Bylander
For the past several days, PEPY staff members have been busy visiting households in Chanleas Dai as part of a baseline survey we are doing in the commune. Additionally, we have been interviewing the eleven village chiefs in order to better understand the history of the commune, the challenges in the area, and how we can improve our programs.
Over and over again we are hearing the same stories: lack of water for agriculture, low literacy, and high rates of migration to Thailand due to the lack of local opportunities for work. Throughout Chanleas Dai, students as young as 15 and 16 drop out of school in order to illegally cross the border in search of work. Village chiefs confirmed that this trend is widespread—nearly every household in the commune has had adults and youth migrate to Thailand for work.
In some ways, these migration patterns lead to development. Young people can go away to earn money to support younger siblings to study, to earn enough money to pay for a wedding, to buy a motorbike allowing them access to markets, or to help their family build a brick or wooden home. However without literacy, critical thinking skills and basic education, there is little hope for sustainable development that is not dependent on the illegal and dangerous migration stream.
We hope that opportunities for education, particularly quality higher education in Chanleas Dai, can help break this cycle. We have seen the potential for this already at The PEPY Ride School. Neighboring schools in the area have an alarming drop-out rate for 6th graders, with 40-60 percent of entering 6th graders leaving school before the end of the year. At The PEPY Ride School, nearly all of our 6th graders finished primary school and over 90% continued on to 7th grade, a tremendous number in a country where less than a quarter of students continue to secondary school.
We are excited to begin working with the new secondary school in Chanleas Dai this year. Though currently housed in a temporary structure, there is a full team of teachers and administrators excited to be working with the District Office of Education and PEPY to expand education in the area. We hope that with the new secondary school, the first in the commune, we will be able to make education a viable alternative to illegal migration, and in doing so encourage the development and retention of valuable human resources within Chanleas Dai.