In devastated Bam, children head back to school
Temporary schools provide basic learning again for earthquake’s youngest victims
BAM, 19 January 2004 – Less than one month after the devastating earthquake that destroyed much of the southern Iranian city of Bam, the first children will return to a Ministry of Education school today. The first of 26 temporary schools is scheduled to open in the city’s Zone 10, catering for up to 50 primary school children in an inflatable tent provided by UNICEF. The tent was erected late yesterday evening by UNICEF and Department of Education staff assisted by a group of willing students, eager to return to learning. More tents will be provided to this location Monday to help increase capacity for both primary and secondary school children in the coming days.
An estimated 20,000 school-age children remain in Bam, and since the 26 December quake most have been living in tents with little access to recreation and educational opportunities. While a number of play areas have been established by NGOs with the support of UNICEF, huge obstacles remain to beginning education amidst the rubble of the ancient city. Amongst the many challenges faced by education authorities are difficulties in finding teachers able to cope with the return to the classroom, the destruction of 90% of school buildings, and the dispersal of children into temporary camps. UNICEF estimates that one-third of Bam’s teachers were killed in the earthquake, along with up to 10,000 school children. Those that remain are suffering from stress and psychosocial trauma, in addition to the practical difficulties of caring for families.
In a first step towards starting some form of education, 26 sites have been identified around the city where temporary schools can be established, and where teachers are available to begin emergency education. UNICEF has already made available more than 240 Schools-in-a-Box – each containing classroom materials including exercise books, pens and paper for up to 80 students – and recreational kits, containing sports and games equipment. For locations with limited facilities to accommodate classrooms, UNICEF has also provided 16 inflatable school tents to the Ministry of Education in Bam.
This week, the UNICEF tents will be erected on more sites to provide specific activities that cater the needs of different groups of children in Bam; in the Baravat area of the city, where before the earthquake more than 3,000 students were enrolled in classes, special focus will be made on assisting adolescent girls return to makeshift classrooms. Elsewhere in the city, the Ministry of Education has secured metal containers in which to establish classes, once teachers can be identified to run lessons. The emphasis of activities undertaken at the temporary schools will be on developing a sense of routine and normalcy for both children and teachers. UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education to start recreational activities and life-skills education classes in the temporary schools. UNICEF’s support will then develop into interactive and participatory teaching and learning on the concepts of basic education textbooks to help children gradually move toward normalcy before they can return fully to school. This “low-stress” approach is designed to help all concerned readjust to the classrooms, while taking into account the continued pressures faced by children and adults still living in difficult conditions and coping with personal loss.
UNICEF is also be supporting the Ministry of Education and other partners to develop counselling programmes with teachers and health workers, which will include outreach work at household level and within the temporary schools. The organization is also supporting the development of counselling programmes via radio.
Speaking today, UNICEF’s Representative for Iran, Ms. Kari Egge, noted the important steps being undertaken by the Ministry of Education in rebuilding education.
“We know from global experience that in the aftermath of a disaster such as this it is imperative to help children rebuild a sense of routine in their daily lives. Education – even in non-formal environments and at a basic level – does help children to focus their energies on something other than the terrible conditions they are living in, and the horrors that they have already experienced,” said Ms. Egge.
“In addition, the restarting of education sends a very positive message to families that things are moving forward, and that there is a movement towards rebuilding. That is an important confidence builder in communities that have been subject to such massive devastation,” she added.
UNICEF response to the Bam earthquake
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Bam, UNICEF has provided the following support
- Supply of 625,000 water purification tablets to ensure that water sources are treated for safe drinking
- Procurement of 6,000 jerry cans for collection of water from distribution plants
- Provision of 26 community water tanks, each with a capacity of 5,000 litres
- Provision of three portable generators to support pumps and water systems
- Provision of 14,000 blankets, 1,800 nappies and 10,000 pieces of winter clothing plus boots and socks
- Supply of winterised tents and other shelter items
- Supply of essential equipment to child tracing programmes
- Procurement of more than 240 Schools-in-a-Box and 50 Recreation Kits
- Supply of emergency health and drugs kits to support up to 120,000 people as well as emergency obstetric kits and 7,600 baby blankets.
For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media – Bam +88 216 855 10604