Muang Sing Elementary School, Luang Namtha, Laos
Muang Sing is located in northwestern Laos in the northern part of Luang Namtha Province. The town lies about 60 kilometres northwest of the town of Luang Namtha, 77 kilometres northeast by road from Xieng Kok on the Burmese border and about 360 kilometres northwest of Vientiane. The district, which has jurisdiction over about 95 villages, borders Muang Long to the west and Muang Namtha to the east and Yunnan, China to the north. The district covers an area of 1650 km², has a population of about 23,500 as of 2000 and a population density of 14.2 persons per km². The terrain ranges in altitude between 540 in the lowlands to 2,094 metres in the highlands. Muang Namtha forms a valley of the same name with dramatic mountain scenery. Roughly half of the district lies within the Namtha National Biodiversity Conservation Area, also known as Nam Ha National Protected Area, a heavily forested area under national protection which extends much further to the southwest and includes the Pha Yueng Waterfall, about 17 kilometres south of the town of Mueang Sing. The confluence of Nam Dai, Nam Sing and Nam Yuan is just to the northeast of the town of Mueang Sing.
There are over nine minority groups in Mueang Sing District. As of 2000 there were some 68 Akha villages, 26 Tai Lue villages, 5 Tai Neua villages, 5 Yao villages, 3 Hmong villages and 1 Tai Dam village in the district. These ethnic groups are classified in terms of altitude such as Lao lum (lowland Lao) and Lao sung (highland Lao). There are also many ethnic Yunnanese people in the area, mainly traders. The Akha which comprise about 45%, speak Tibeto-Burman languages and are mostly found in the rural parts of the district, especially the hills, and the Tai Lu, 30% of the people, form the largest ethnic group living in the main town.
Remember, each textbook costs $8, which is a 1/7th of the average family’s monthly income.