|Student numbers have jumped since the new Sinku Primary School was rebuilt in a cyclone-affected community in Myanmar.|
By Anna K. Stechert
DIDIER, Myanmar, 28 July 2009 – Aye Nandar Win enjoys attending fifth grade at the rebuilt Sinku Primary School here in cyclone-affected Didier Township. "I love this school!" she exclaimed. "I love the space, the colours, my desk – everything."
The township's original school was destroyed by Cyclone Nargis, which swept through Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta region in May 2008.
"Our village suffered heavily," said the village head, U Chit. "The school was gone; and out of 350 houses, only 4 were still standing after the cyclone."
In order to allow children to continue their studies while the parents rebuilt the village, UNICEF provided a temporary safe-learning space and school materials for all students. While learning conditions were not ideal, the school Principal, Daw Hlar Hlar Nwe, said the sense of structure and the interaction with other children helped students regain some sense of normalcy.
Building back better
Now, students and teachers are in their brand-new school, which was constructed by UNICEF in close cooperation with Myanmar's Ministry of Education.
|Aye Nandar Win, 11, says that studying in the new school is fun and comfortable.|
"The change in the children is already immense," observed the principal. "The children are motivated; they participate, are active and seem so happy."
As a child-friendly school, Sinku features well-lit and ventilated classrooms, a teachers' office, a library, water and sanitation facilities, access ramps for students with disabilities, and a large playground. The school was built to resist earthquakes up to 5.0 on the Richter scale and to withstand strong winds.
And to prevent flooding, the building was raised above the highest surge level in the area.
In addition to teaching and study materials, UNICEF provided all of the school's furniture and playground equipment. UNICEF also conducted training for teachers, school authorities and local residents to improve the quality of education and ensure proper school management and community involvement.
'It makes me very proud'
"In the old school, all four grades were taught in one room, which made it really difficult for us to teach and for the children to concentrate because of the noise," said Daw Hlar Hlar New.
Student numbers have almost doubled, from 72 to 136, since the new school opened its doors in June.
"Parents in nearby villages are sending their children here because they know that the school is safe and good," said U Chit. "It makes me very proud. We know our children are safe, and we have a shelter in case of another bad storm."
The local villagers have shown their support from the beginning. Before construction began, they pooled their money to buy a big enough lot to fit all the new facilities. And they know it is their responsibility to keep the school in good condition.
"We have agreed to check the school grounds every day and to report any problem to the Parent Teacher Association," said the principal. "The PTA will then be in charge of any repairs."
U Chit knows he can count on the support of his community: "They are as proud of this school as I am. I assure you that we will keep this school maintained and in excellent shape."
Overall, UNICEF is planning to construct a total of 46 schools in five cyclone-affected townships in Myanmar.
'Back on Track' website