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Power plant energizes learners in Laos

Students during a break at the Hadnam China-Laos Friendship School, which China Southern Power Grid financed to build. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

VIENTIANE-Two China-Laos friendship schools, built with assistance from China Southern Power Grid, are transforming education in northern Laos.

Poppy-replacement plantations line the winding road through the mountains of the Golden Triangle to CSG's Nam Tha 1 hydropower plant, 350 kilometers north of Vientiane. Completed in 2018 with an installed capacity of 168 MW, its annual generation is expected to reach 720 GWh while providing green power to more than 2 million people in the border regions of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

The plant is the first overseas build-operate-transfer hydropower project by CSG under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. Construction of the plant has brought reliable road access to the villages around Hadnam, the center of CSG operations in the area.

The plant is the first overseas build-operate-transfer hydropower project by CHina Southern Power Grid under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative

In 2020, CSG spent $460,000 building two new schools in Hadnam and nearby Vanglek.

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"I came to teach here in 2003 when there were no permanent buildings and no running water," says Ounkham Phikchaphon, 37, principal of Hadnam School. "The new school building is a great learning environment. We hope to build a high school soon."

The plant not only supplies electricity for local people, but CSG is also committed to actively maintaining good community relationships through various public welfare activities.

The two schools have been highly praised by the Lao side.

In April, Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh conferred a special development medal on CSG in recognition of the company's outstanding contribution to local welfare.

"My old classroom had earthen walls and a thatched roof that would leak when it rained. I'm very grateful for this schoolhouse. It's much better than before," says Namlin Sidthideth, a junior middle school student in the Hadnam China-Laos Friendship School.

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Namlin's home is 90 km from Hadnam. Some students' families live even further away, testament to the importance of the school over a very large area.

Vanglek Village School was located at the bottom of the mountain, surrounded on three sides by rugged cliffs. It was small and dangerous.

For the new school, CSG chose a vast grassy area beside the asphalt road. The new Vanglek China-Laos Friendship School is beautiful and spacious, with excellent facilities.

Moldanoy Sensoulin, the 36-year-old principal, has taught in the village since 2012. She says the old school was in such a poor condition that it had to close sometimes due to bad weather. Two classrooms accommodated only 30 students. The new school is comfortable, and the number of students has increased to more than 100, including a kindergarten.

Khamphai Xaiyaseth, the 57-year-old former chief of Vanglek village, came to see his three grandchildren in the school. He shares his joy:"It's great to have this power plant here. Now the school is beautiful and we love it. My grandchildren can study well here, and may also become teachers here when they grow up!"

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Villager Xiengla Khamphamek has a 3-year-old son in the kindergarten. He dropped out of school, but hopes his children will have a better chance than him to go to college. "I feel very grateful to CSG, and to China. They have helped us so that the children can study better in school. I am very grateful.

"I want them to learn Chinese and study in China someday," he says.