|© UNICEF video/2007|
|In addition to providing quake-affected Peruvian students with temporary schools, UNICEF has distributed 12,000 backpacks with study materials.|
By Elsa Ursula
PISCO, Peru, 8 February 2008 – In the earthquake that shook the Peruvian provinces of Ica, Pisco and Chincha in August 2007, one of the most evident disasters was the destruction of 635 of the region’s schools.
School activities were paralyzed and one of UNICEF’s main objectives became helping the affected children and adolescents get back to school immediately. To help accomplish this, ‘temporary classrooms’ such as tents and classrooms made of straw matting were installed. These spaces are quick to install and, most important, offer safe spaces for children to get back to their studies.
“Before, the children had their classes outdoors and were exposed to dust and disease,” said the principal of the Horacio Zevallos School in Chincha, Rosario Munayco.
Children deeply affected
Many children were deeply affected by their losses, anguished over the possibility of another such misfortune and refused to return to school. However, through patient work, teachers were able to get these children to rejoin their classes.
“At the beginning it was difficult,” said Julia Cárdenas, an early education teacher. “We talked with the children about how they felt after the earthquake and they all were frightened, telling us, ‘My house fell down’ or ‘I don’t have a house’.
“But here in these classrooms they felt safe,” added Ms. Cárdenas. “This feeling of safety allowed the children to return to school, little by little.”
Happy to be back in school
So far, UNICEF has installed 304 temporary classrooms for more than 34,000 students. It has also distributed 12,000 school backpacks with study materials for early and primary education. Teachers have been trained in the handling of post-disaster stress, and permanent technical assistance has been provided to the Regional Directorate of Education.
Specifically, UNICEF provided technical support to the Regional Directorate to prepare an emergency curriculum. This material helped teachers to return to their classrooms with guidelines on how to begin classes following the earthquake.
“I am really happy to have my school back,” says David, 11, who lives in Pisco. “I have gotten to see my friends and my teachers again – and I didn’t have to repeat the school year!”