|Former US President Bill Clinton chats with children from displaced families in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Mr. Clinton was completing a three-country tour in his capacity as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery.|
By Anna Stechert
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 4 December 2006 – Ibu Nurhayati has a big smile on her face. She just met Bill Clinton. The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery has come to her school – SDN 1 Peukan Bada, on the outskirts of Banda Aceh – to take a look at UNICEF’s permanent school reconstruction program.
“I was very nervous before,” says Ibu. “But once he was here, I was just happy.” Together with UNICEF’s head of office for Aceh and Nias, Edouard Beigbeder, she greeted the former US President and told him about UNICEF’s support for her school during the past two years.
“I explained to him that our new school has six classrooms, a library, a teachers’ office and separate toilets for boys and girls,” she recalls. “And I also told him that UNICEF turned the semi-permanent school which we had been using up until now into a wonderful multi-purpose hall which can be used by the whole community.”
Tsunami destroyed school
Mr. Clinton’s visit to Ibu’s school came on 2 December, just weeks before the second anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated coastal communities in eight countries on 26 December 2004.
Located only a few hundred meters away from the shore, SDN 1 Peukan Bada had been completely destroyed by the tsunami. Of the 310 students and 26 teachers, only 76 students and 11 teachers survived.
To enable continued learning, UNICEF provided emergency school tents immediately after the tsunami. In July 2005, the school moved into a semi-permanent facility. Construction on the permanent school started in March 2006 and was completed in November.
|At the SDN 1 Peukan Bada primary school in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, Mr. Clinton greets the principal, Nurhayati, as UNICEF head of office for Aceh and Nias, Edouard Beigbeder, looks on.|
Supplies and training
Besides support for reconstruction of the buildings, SDN 1 Peukan Bada has been receiving student and teacher materials from UNICEF. Last year, two of the school’s teachers also participated in a UNICEF-funded workshop on dealing with traumatized children and practicing evacuations in case of emergency.
Last month, the principal, teachers and members of the school community received training from UNICEF in ‘Creating Learning Communities for Children’ – which included helping teachers improve the quality and interactivity of their lessons and assisting the administration with the challenges of school management.
In addition, UNICEF is training school committees in how to manage and maintain the facility, raise funds for operational costs and involve more parents in the learning process. And six teachers have taken part in UNICEF’s ‘art in the bag’ training on the importance of creative expression to childhood development.
‘Learn as much as you can’
UNICEF is building 367 child-friendly and earthquake resistant schools in Aceh and Nias. By the end of this year, 10 schools will be finished and 60 more will be under construction.
To provide safe learning spaces in the meantime, UNICEF is building 235 semi-permanent school units in Aceh and Nias. The last 10 units are currently under construction and are expected to be completed by the end of 2006.
The visit to Aceh was Mr. Clinton’s final visit as UN Special Envoy. Before leaving, he had a special message to the students of SDN 1 Peukan Bada: “Congratulations on the beautiful school!” he wrote. “Please learn as much as you can.”
Tsunami stories from Indonesia