School in Cambodia cleared of landmines

Chroeng Chas is a remote village of just under 600 people on the old colonial road in Otdar Meanchey Province, northern Cambodia. There is little infrastructure, and until seven years ago, there was no local schooling for its children.

Determined to provide education for their children, local residents came together to fund the construction of a village school in 2008. However, the villagers were unaware they had built their school in a minefield - a legacy of the long Cambodian war.

The school remained open for almost a year before students spotted mines when playing in the school grounds. The school was immediately declared temporarily closed by the local authorities and relocated to the village hall opposite.

The HALO Trust was asked to clear the land, but it was not safe for the children to remain so close to the site during clearance operations. Luckily one of the teachers, whose son served in the HALO demining team, was able to teach all 70 pupils in her own home whilst the deminers set to work.

It took five months for HALO to rid the school of landmines. A total of 103 anti personnel mines and three explosive remnants of war were destroyed, with several mines discovered just metres from the school building. Now the land has been declared safe, the school is ready for refurbishment and the children can learn in safety.