Making a Safer School: A Story from Engineer Thippamon

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Mr. Thippamon Chanthalangsy is head engineer of the Division of Construction in the Ministry of Education and Sports at a national level. His division is composed of 6 engineers responsible of the macro planning of construction, retrofitting, and repairing of schools and facilities in Lao PDR.

Mr. Thippamon is the focal point within the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) for the BEQUAL project (Basic Education Quality and Learning in Lao PDR), a 10-year project funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). This project aims at assessing, retrofitting existing schools, and building news ones. The new school will follow the safe school construction guideline of Lao PDR to make sure schools are safe from windstorm, earthquake, and flood.

Mr. Thippamon’s unit is also part of the national Technical Working Group for Save the Children International’s ASEAN Safe School Initiative (ASSI) project. This technical working group is a consultative and approval authority to endorse the use of any tools and documents developed under ASSI for Lao PDR. They need to make sure the tools are relevant and contextualized for Lao PDR.

As the goal of BEQUAL and ASSI are quite similar but above all complementary, it is not a surprise when decision makers took part of the training and field practise of Visual Inspection for Safety Upgrading Strategies (VISUS) tool from 6th to 9th October 2015 in Bolikhamxay province. This tool is part of the comprehensive safe school assessment suite (CSS) to technically assess schools that has been red flagged during the self-assessment. A technical assessment which look at the site, location, and external and internal parts of the building provided through a report with clear recommendations for decision makers to secure schools.


Mr. Thippamon stated, “VISUS is a good tool in the medium and long term perspective of Lao PDR. For civil work within MoES, it will help us to identify the school to be repaired after the 1 year of feasibility study and assessment

The impact of VISUS tool has had impacts on other projects supervised by Mr. Thippamon – which is the BEQUAL one. VISUS tool (format, content, & approach) has been used to review and improve the tools used in this 10-year project for school assessment. This is a real and practical example to show how VISUS has impacted positively another technical project. In the meantime, the engineer team who works with Mr. Thippamon in this project is the open window for VISUS to expand and grow in Lao PDR for the next ASSI phases.

The experience of Mr Thippamon With VISUS positively impacts:

-       Save the Children’s approaches for the next steps
-       Clarification of needs in Lao PDR for schools assessment
-       Technical engagement

Bridging the works between MoES’s Disaster Risk Reduction unit and MoES’s Construction unit out of the unique ASSI project.

Program Information:

Save the children is part of a regional consortium with World Vision, Mercy Malaysia and Plan International as lead agencies on ASEAN safe school. This initiative ensures children are more resilient to disasters and have a safe and secure learning environment. Interventions are aiming to improve the capacities for ASEAN Member States including commitment to work towards developing a common framework for school safety, rolled out through training and technical support on safe school tools and guidelines, and strengthening knowledge and collaboration among Education and Disaster Risk Management experts to advance initiatives at national and subnational levels.

This pilot project, started in September 2014, has been piloted in 50 schools of 3 districts of Bolikhamxay province. Save the Children in Laos partnered with the UNESCO Paris and SPRINT laboratory from Udine University in Italy to develop, a multi hazard VISUS tool. Lao PDR is the only country to pilot a multi-hazard approach of the VISUS tool.

In addition to VISUS, Save the Children has also developed, tested, and improved a self-assessment tool to evaluate the school’s performance regarding pillar 1 (safe learning facilities), 2 (school disaster management) and 3 (knowledge and learning) of the comprehensive safe school framework.

Through this program, Save the Children’s partners with UNESCO Paris and Udine University for the pillar 1. The development of the VISUS tool for multi-hazard assessment and the content of evaluation and training materials have made tremendous progress due to the prodigious efforts of the VISUS team in consultation with the CSS Assessment Suite Steering Committee and the Lao team. Thanks to this partnership, we now have a well-conceived comprehensive (wide-ranging and global) multi-hazard survey, used for initial testing in 8 schools in Laos.  The VISUS training program was very well-organized in terms of both logistics and selection of schools. The energies and synergies of the international consultants and Lao DRR team were very good.

Moreover, ASSI outcomes are similar to BEQUAL programme, so it has been decided on this ASSI phase 2 to get their support on the Lao translation of the technical forms of VISUS. Indeed, Save the Children can benefit from the expertise and knowledge of the Lao engineers implementing BEQUAL. Moreover, BEQUAL is the entry point for us to be better rooted in Lao PDR – meaning working with a network of engineers who can introduce us to more technical people as VISUS requires. ASSI phase 3 in Lao PDR will be discussed with BEQUAL in order to establish a sustainable partnership to develop and improve VISUS. In fact, BEQUAL is a 10-year technical program targeting more than 400 schools in 6 provinces within Laos.