Dong Dok - April 2004 ©


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Going north along Route 13, the intersection with the wide road leading to Dong Dok at Km 9 is located at the traffic lights. A view from the intersection down the busy main street leading to the University. Looking down the entrance driveway to the University, dormitories for foreign students donated by the Ministry of education of Vietnam stand just outside campus.
For those of us who left Dong Dok—site of the former teacher training college (ESP, École Supèrieure de Pédagogie) just north of Vientiane, the capital of Laos—during the first half of the 1970s, a visit to the campus leads into a new, almost unfamiliar world. Few vestiges of the past remain to trigger fond memories of years gone by. The road from Vientiane to school is no longer the rural, barely-two-lane road raised above the rice paddies that stretched nearly to the horizon. The two lanes are now at least four lanes, with traffic lights and traffic; the rice paddies are difficult to see behind the buildings and activities lining the street.

The campus now houses the “National University of Laos” with its 22,000 students, 3,600 of whom study in the English Section. The English Section’s Siri (Sithuy Souvannasy), now the Vice-Director of Academic Affairs Office of the university (responsible for curriculum development and accreditation), took me on a quick trip around the campus, where new buildings have been sprouting like mushrooms. Some of these buildings are shown below.

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Behind its white facade, the former English Section building is one of the few familiar sites. It now serves as the Academic Affairs & International Organisation building. Siri stands in front of the Main Administration Building of the President of the University, built nearly a decade ago. It is situated right in front of the old English Section, which is connected to it by an elevated walkway. The Teacher Training Center for education administrators from around the country is on the left and the former English Section on the right. Under construction is the indoor stadium and 12 lecture halls. The elevated walkway connecting the English Section with the Main Administration Building is found to the right, behind the trees.

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Across the street from the English Section toward the boys’ dormitories and the former site of the Salle de Fete, lies several impressive buildings, which serve as the center for the study of economics. This former French Section building is now the English Department building which, with 5 other buildings, accommodates 3600 students. Department staffing includes more than 100 Lao teachers and 8 volunteers (Americans). Next door is a new building containing 8 lecture halls. This building was designed by Chareun (a former English Section math/science student) while serving as a consultant to the Ministry of Education.

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Near the stadium lie new students dormitories located behind the school. The new stadium, also behind the school, with tennis courts in the background but out of sight.


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The Main Campus Library These were the “IVS apartments” which provided accommodations for IVS staff and later for Lao staff as well. One remaining house for foreign staff is located behind the wall to the right.

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Siri and Soun's home, school, and store at Dong Dok
On the road before the string of restaurants just off-campus at Dong Dok lies the Sirimoungkhoun English School (see photo at the right), built and owned by Siri and his wife Sounthala (the school’s director). The main purpose of the school is to provide an opportunity for disadvantaged students from rural areas to study at minimum cost. In addition, provision is made for free schooling for those who cannot afford to pay, especially those from poor families. It has been in operation for 2 years and is now attended by 456 students; 70 % are girls. There has since been a need to expand: however, to cut expenses, a secondary school is presently rented for evening courses. Siri’s and Soun’s vision is to open their school to select students from poor rural families to study and eventually to provide domitory accommodations for them. For these students, the school would be free, while Siri and Soun would, at the same time, strive to maximize the quality of the courses given, within the financial constraints imposed on them.

And finally a few familiar faces from the Dong Dok's English Section encountered during our travels around Laos. . .

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Khammay,
Director,
Collège Keng Kheung,
Paksé
Kongseng,
Accountant,
WHO,
Vientiane
Phonsavanh,
Instructor,
University,
Luang Prabang
Prasith, with Allen and Bounheng, in Luang Prabang Siri Souvannasy,
University,
Dong Dok

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