|Sacha Westerbeek, UNICEF Communication Officer in Darfur|
DARFUR, 9 July 2004 - This morning I went back to Kalma camp for displaced people. There is still a lot to be done, but a start has been made. We all hope everyone can return home soon. In the meantime children go to school, and babies are delivered by trained traditional birth attendants or by a nurse. Clean drinking water is now available. Children learn how to use a latrine and, most importantly, they can continue their education. They can play without the fear of being attacked or abducted. Here in Kalma, a child can be a child again.
UNICEF is supporting one of the schools. There are currently 2,150 children - 1,263 boys and 887 girls. The school has 23 classes and 16 teachers, who teach in two shifts. The first shift is from 8 to 11, and the second shift is from 12 to 2:30. Some girls look at me curiously when I walk around their school compound. They follow me wherever I go and I’m pleased that I can practice my newly acquired knowledge of Arabic with them. The children are patient and very helpful.
|Young children at Kalma camp for displaced people, South Darfur|
Aisha and her friends Jihad and Tatna are all from the same locality, Shetaya, which is about 100 km northwest of Kalma. Aisha is excited: Today is her first day at school. She is in the 3rd grade and is dreaming about becoming a teacher. The girls laugh and make fun and they share some salty-tasting seeds with me. For a moment I completely forget that I’m in a camp for displaced people where women and children are still dying from malnutrition and disease.
Aisha wants to tell me something important, but I can’t understand her, since my Arabic is very basic and her English non-existent. With some assistance she tells me that she is an orphan. Some weeks ago, Aisha and her two sisters went out to fetch water. She saw the airplanes flying over and heard terrible noises. When she came back to the village the house was bombed. Her parents were dead.
I’ve heard so many of these stories, but I still don’t know how to react to this. Aisha still looks rather cheerful. She is still excited about her first school day in the camp. I hope that UNICEF will be able to construct more schools in the camp. If this is the hope and future we can bring these children, please let us start today!