Schools Gear Up to Protect Children During Hurricane Season
KINGSTON, 16 June 2008 — As Jamaica prepares for hurricane season, schools most vulnerable to damage are being stocked with emergency supplies to help ensure the continuation of children’s schooling in the event of disaster.
The Ministry of Education began last week to distribute “school-in-a-box” kits, recreational kits and early childhood development kits, packed with a wide array of educational material.
The kits, developed and provided by UNICEF, are being issued to over 50 primary schools and early childhood institutions in Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester and St. Thomas, where some 27,400 children are enrolled. If a hurricane strikes during the summer months when school is out of session, the kits will be used at shelters.
The educational kits are part of a wider disaster preparedness and response effort by the Ministry of Education, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and UNICEF to protect children’s right to education in times of crisis.
“Children tend to suffer most from the devastation, dislocation and emotional impact of natural disasters and other emergencies,” said UNICEF Representative Bertrand Bainvel. “The kits are a tangible way to operationalise school-based preparedness plans that have been developed by headmasters, teachers and students over the last year.”
Each school-in-a-box kit serves up to 80 children and contains basic school supplies, such as exercise books, pencils, crayons, erasers and scissors. It also includes a teaching clock, counting cubes and posters for teaching the alphabet, multiplication and number tables.
The recreational kit is designed for 90 children and contains balls for football, volleyball and basketball, tabards, skipping ropes, a frisbee and other material for organized sports and games. Each early childhood development kit, developed in consultation with Jamaican early childhood experts, can be used by 30 children and includes a colourful range of supplies.
UNICEF also works closely with the Red Cross and other partners to provide psychosocial support to help children cope with the emotional and psychological impact of disasters.
Last year, UNICEF Jamaica mobilized over US$200,000 from the United Kingdom and French UNICEF National Committees, in response to emergency appeals following Hurricane Dean’s wreckage. School-in-a-box and recreation kits were delivered to damaged schools across the island, benefiting almost 6,000 children.
Several schools reported that the kits inspired more creative and stimulating teaching, helped to lift the post-hurricane morale of students and in many cases improved learning outcomes for children.
UNICEF is currently ordering additional educational supplies valued at over US$150,000, as part of a larger contribution from the Kingdom of Belgium.