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2008 Floods in Pakistan

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Prototype schools offer children opportunity for a better education

© UNICEF/Pak/Jameel Ahmed
UNICEF Pakistan Representative, Dan Rohrmann, reads to children at a UNICEF-supported Temporary Learning Centre in Sindh Province.

By David Youngmeyer

22 May 2011 – Thatta District, Sindh, Pakistan – Flood-affected children in Pakistan are looking forward to improved classrooms as UNICEF-supported education assistance moves from the emergency phase to early recovery.

Last year’s monsoon floods devastated the country, affecting almost 20 million children and their families. Education was badly hit, with more than 8,800 schools at all levels damaged in the flood-affected areas. Millions of families were displaced from their homes and many had to live in tent camps outside their districts. 

Temporary Learning Centres (TLC) or tent classrooms, were established in displaced persons camps, allowing children to continue their education and in many cases go to school for the first time.

UNICEF-supported TLCs brought education to more than 260,000 children. In addition, UNICEF and partners distributed school supplies to more than half a million children, to enhance their learning and motivate them to continue their schooling.

With the majority of displaced people now having left camps and returned to their home areas, TLCs have been repositioned with them so that flood-affected children can continue to learn.

During new UNICEF Pakistan Representative, Dan Rohrmann’s first field visit to Sindh, he  met Parveen and her teacher Bashir Ahmad in the village of Suleman Kehari.

In the village, children attend a brightly-coloured and airy tent school set up near their old flood-damaged classroom. The children are well-equipped with school materials and school bags, and have benches to sit on.

© UNICEF/Pak/Jameel Ahmed
Eight-year-old Parveen has learned to write her name at a UNICEF-supported Temporary Learning Centre in Sindh Province.

Eight-year-old Parveen looks happy and engaged as she takes part in a class. She wears a vibrant pink chadar, a cloth that covers her head and body. Says Parveen: “My father has placed me in this school. Prior to coming here I could not even write my name. Now I have learned to write my name.”

Soon Parveen will be able to move out of the temporary classroom and into a school building, that is being built next door. With the move to early recovery as part of the UN Delivering as One Programme, UNICEF and partners are working towards a longer-term provision of education, with the construction of six prototype schools in Sindh, Punjab and Baluchistan.

Each of the Transitional School Structures (TSS) has three classrooms with space for close to 40 children. They can be built quickly, suit the local conditions and are child-friendly.

The prototypes have three designs, with variations in the basic structure and provision of windows and ventilation. They all have a concrete base and use prefabricated sandwich panels that are cool in summer and warm in winter. Each school will be fitted out with child-friendly school furniture, learning materials, sanitation facilities for both boys and girls, facilities for children with special needs, playground equipment and a boundary wall.

Parveen’s teacher, Bashir Ahmad, says that teaching in a tent has its difficulties and he is looking forward to moving to the new classroom.

“We know that the new school is under construction. We hope it is constructed soon and we could move in. We are very happy (about the new school) and the children are happy too.”

NICEF is working with the Government of Pakistan, provincial authorities and partners to select the most appropriate school designs for each province. The schools will then be rolled out in larger numbers, moving children from tent schools to more permanent structures on a larger scale. Other partners will also be able to draw on the prototypes for additional school construction.

Rohrmann says the TSS represents a unique model: “When families returned to their communities after the floods, many children found their old schools to be unusable. With the transition from TLCs to TSSs, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children have the opportunity to pursue their right to quality education and bring back a sense of normalcy to their childhood.

“The TSSs provide a way to build more permanent schools quickly and relatively inexpensively. The schools themselves have a multi-layered impact – not only are they bringing school back to the community and enriching children’s lives, but they also provide child-friendly facilities, along with water and sanitation. We are really building back better.

“When children miss out on their right to education, it is not only they who suffer the consequences through loss of opportunities in life, but the entire social, cultural and economic development of the country loses too.”

Construction of TSSs is supported by AusAID, the Government of Italy, and the OPEC Fund for International Development.

 

 

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