Pakistan

Pakistan: School kits help children cope with earthquake

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/Marroquin
Amna, 9, walks one hour every day to get to Jaburi temporary school, Pakistan. Lack of sufficient tents force them to learn in the open.

By Javier Marroquin

NORTH WEST FRONTIER PROVINCE, Pakistan, 19 December 2005 - All over the earthquake-devastated areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province, UNICEF has been delivering essential education supplies so that children can get back to school.

The School-in-a-Box has been developed by UNICEF and used in the aftermath of disasters and civil conflicts around the world - including the areas hit by last year’s tsunami. In this earthquake affected area of Pakistan, 600 have been distributed, benefiting 48,000 children. 

Many of them are children whose schools were completely destroyed on 8 October 2005, killing many teachers and pupils. In the North West Frontier Province 6,700 schools were seriously damaged or totally flattened.

Thousands of families have sought shelter in tented relief camps. Others have stayed in their villages and are trying to rebuild their communities. One such village is Daddar in the remote Sirhan valley.

Starting school again

Both primary and secondary schools were razed and many buildings remain in ruins. But just over two months later Daddar is alive again, its schools filled with the cheerful noise of children reading aloud their lessons and running outside to play in the chilly autumn sunlight.

Head teacher Abdul Rehman smoothes his white beard while he explains what happened. “For six consecutive days we saw children roaming around, frightened, but there was nothing we could do – we were all in shock and helpless. When UNICEF reached the village, arriving with tents, food and the School-in-a-Box, our priority was to start school again.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/Marroquin
Nine years old child Shanazir and his friends, all from Rati village, enjoying school-in-a-box learning material at Bughar Mang school.

UNICEF has been working with its partner BEST to distribute the kits to far-flung communities. BEST Education Officer Ali Anwar says people are very pleased with the boxes. “There’s a change for the better here,” he says. “Teachers and families are telling me that even children who never went to school before are coming now.”

UNICEF Education Officer Fiaz Shah says: “After the earthquake we did not want to leave the children just sitting in tents with their parents. Whether in a tented camp or in a village, we wanted to set up a place for them where they could be with their peers. Whatever was available we just went for it – proper shelter for schooling was needed, but at first even an open enclosure would work, as long as we could make it theirs.”

“The materials - books, colouring pencils, notepads, chalks and slates, are giving children a sense of property, something which they own. What happens here belongs just to them, and when they go back home they share what they’ve done during the day with their mothers.”

School in a tent

At another tented school recently set up near the site of the former Government Primary School at Bughar Mang, teacher Mohammed Kalim says: “These educational kits act as magnets to children. At the beginning there was fear and mistrust of coming back to school here, but now some of the children say they think tents are actually more fun.”

The school has 11 teachers and 400 students who have to walk several miles from their scattered mountain villages. The School-in-a-Box kits have helped them begin learning again and return to a school routine that is vital to giving them a sense of normalcy after the earthquake disaster.

 


 

 

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