© UNICEF PACIFIC/2015/Mcgarry

Safe at school in Vanuatu

Prospects are a little brighter for thousands of children who have gone back to school with their friends.

After a profoundly stressful event like Cyclone Pam it’s important to get children back to learning and playing as soon as possible. Every day that children are left on the streets is another day of vulnerability and missed opportunity.

Many schools in Vanuatu have been badly damaged or completely destroyed and it will take months to rebuild, but UNICEF is helping students into temporary learning spaces right now.

St Josephs Primary School in Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam
St. Joseph’s Primary School is back up and running in a UNICEF tent. © UNICEF/UNI181861/Sokhin

On Efate Island, St. Joseph’s Primary School was first to open in a UNICEF tent stocked with the vital materials teachers and students need to start learning again.

Student in the remains of St Josephs Primary School after Cyclone Pam
Ellen, 12, standing in the remains of St. Joseph’s Primary School. © UNICEF PACIFIC/2015/Mcgarry

For the tens of thousands of school-aged children who saw the storm devastate their communities, reuniting with teachers and friends helps to reassure them that normal life can return. UNICEF Pacific Representative Dr. Karen Allen says children desperately need “a sense of normalcy and stability that helps them to psychologically recover.”

12-year-old Ellen is finally smiling again after seeing Cyclone Pam’s disturbing impact. “When we got to the garden after the storm we saw the birds were all dead. The wind had killed them,” she remembers.

Young student at a blackboard in St Josephs Primary School
Damasen, 11, by the blackboard at St. Joseph’s Primary School where not much else has survived. © UNICEF PACIFIC/2015/Mcgarry

Damasen, 11, had his life turned upside down by the storm. “We had nowhere to sleep, nowhere to cook,” he says. “I came to see the school…there was no school and I felt no good.”

Now Damasen has a chance to start playing with his friends again and to start putting the events of Cyclone Pam behind him.

Students of Villa East Primary School in Vanuatu
Students of Vila East Primary school proudly show off their new bags. © UNICEF/UNI181866/Sokhin

Most children found their school gear was washed away or destroyed by flooding and the harsh reality is that many parents just can’t afford to buy new supplies. UNICEF is distributing thousands of schoolbags filled with the exercise books, pencils and other basics that every student deserves.

Let’s give every child the chance to learn

Today, too many children are still out of class while their schools are repaired and because many are busy helping to clean, fix, forage and care for each other while their parents seek any means possible to provide for them.

UNICEF teams are tirelessly working to help families back to their feet and to get students back in school where they can look to the future with their friends. But thousands of children are in need across a sprawling stretch of isalnds and we need your help to reach every child.