Communities come together in a ‘miraculous turn-around’
ST.GEORGE'S PARISH, GRENADA/NEW YORK/ BRIDGETOWN BARBADOS, 22 October 2004 – UNICEF today applauded the government of Grenada as thousands of children began returning to school just one month after Hurricane Ivan battered the island nation.
Schools have reopened thanks to the clean up efforts of school administrators, teachers, government officials and children, as well as to assistance provided by several neighboring governments, UNICEF said.
“This is a miraculous turn-around under extremely demanding conditions,” said Ms. Karin Sham Poo, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “Grenada is setting an example for other countries by making children paramount.”
When Hurricane Ivan struck the island of Grenada on September 7, what should have been the second day of school, it left nearly 30,000 children out of school. Many of the island’s 79 schools were either severely damaged or had to be used as shelters for those whose homes were destroyed.
Children are resuming schooling in classrooms whose roofs have been temporarily sealed with plastic sheeting provided by the United States government. A shipment of 74 UNICEF-provided tent classrooms will provide more classroom space and is expected to arrive next week. Some of the schools will need heavy repairs.
For Grenada, returning to school represents more than just bricks and mortar. “School is not a building, it is the space to learn, to teach and to perform,” said Mr. Victor Ashby, Principal of the Grenada Boy’s Secondary School.
“It is a combination of brains and brawn that is putting the education system back on track, said Ms. Jean Gough, UNICEF country representative. Ms. Gough praised the teachers and the children, the parent-teacher organizations, education officers, district education officers, the Ministry of Education and the military forces of Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
“They literally rolled up their sleeves and dug the schools out of the mud,” she said.
On Monday, 11 October 22 government schools were reopened.
Severe weather conditions also affected other islands in the Caribbean. While children are back in school in Jamaica, parts of Haiti are still reeling from the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Jeanne. UNICEF, national authorities and other partners in education are working together to get children into school in the northern city of Gonaives as sooon as possible.
UNICEF marked the school openings by handing over 223 Schools-in-a-Box for primary school students, school supplies for secondary schools, and recreation kits as well as 12 Sport-in-a-Box kits donated by FIFA for nearly 25,000 primary and secondary schoolchildren at a ceremony held today at the Grenada Boy’s Secondary School.
“Today, Grenadian children are one step closer to regaining a sense of security and stability in their lives,” Ms. Sham Poo told the gathering.
One week after the hurricane, UNICEF began working with volunteers on a pyschosocial programme designed to help local children recover from the upheaval in their lives. The programme, called ‘Return to Happiness' reached out to 400 children in the first one-month long workshops.
Moving forward, Grenada still needs more supplies, including:·
For further information, please contact:
Lisa McClean-Trotman, Communication Officer, Tel. 246 467-6157
Leon Charles UNICEF Consultant, Grenada, Tel. 473 4073054
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, NY Tel: 212 326 7452