Dutch ambassador inaugurates 21 UNICEF schools in Muzaffarabad
Muzaffarabad, June 24, 2011: Twenty one new schools constructed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the earthquake-affected districts of Muzaffarabad and Bagh were inaugurated by the Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, H.E Joost Reintjes, at a ceremony held today in the Government Boys Primary School Mera Paprosa.
The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has contributed US$32 million, making it the largest donor for the earthquake education programme. This funding is part of a broader package of support to UNICEF for school reconstruction in the earthquake affected region from a group of donors.
With the funds, UNICEF is expected to complete the planned 691 schools (410 permanent and 281 pre-fabricated schools) in the earthquake-affected areas by the end of the current year. The total number of students to benefit from the program would be 65,000.
Out of the Dutch contribution, 121 permanent and 68 pre-fabricated schools have been built; a total of 290 schools (222 permanent and 68 pre-fabricated) will be completed by the end of the program in August 2012.
The program has not only provided the hardware in terms of school buildings, but also provided the soft component, including teacher training and capacity development of education department staff. Students were also provided with training on psycho-social issues related to natural disasters.
“Education is a basic necessity for development which should be at the easy reach of every child” said Mr Reintjes. The Ambassador appreciated the difficulty for the parents in sending their children to school due to the harsh winters and difficult terrain. He was glad that the enrolment figures had improved greatly due to the programme and emphasised the need for quality education. The Netherlands Government stepped in after the devastating earthquake of 2005, which was an example of the longstanding bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
“Creating opportunities for children in the wake of the tragic 2005 earthquake, illustrates that building back better through the combination of seismic-resistant school buildings, clean drinking water and sanitation facilities along with child-friendly schooling, provides a winning combination for the children, the parents, the teachers and the local community. The schools are becoming the hubs for community development.”