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. 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.
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.
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 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.