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Back to school after the floods

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Back to school after the floods

© UNICEF/DPRK/Michel Le Pechoux

By Cristina Brugiolo

Last August DPRK has experienced severe damages and losses due to torrential rains spread all over the country and flooding affected six out of twelve provinces.

According to the Ministry of Education latest assessment, 316 school buildings have been completely or partially damaged hampering the normal continuation of the school year after the summer break.

On 1st of September in fact, at the reopening of the schools, many children found their school either completely washed away or badly damaged. It is estimated that about 28,000 children, from kindergarten to secondary school, had no classroom to go back to and had to study on open air or in double shifts in other classrooms or schools.

“Many schools got submerged and had damaged roof from the heavy rains of those days” says Mrs. Ri Hye Ryon, from the Ministry of Education. “Not only the infrastructure got damaged but all the furniture and the books are, in many cases, unusable”.

In Tongchong county, in Kangwon Province on the east coast of DPRK, on the 9th of August alone 250 mm of rain fell and in the mountains the level or rainfall was in between 500 to 700 mm.
Jigok Ri is a village located in the mountains, 20 minutes far from the county town Tongchong. On the morning of the 9th of August half of the village was washed away by the force of the water of the local dam that collapsed at 9 am. Among those houses there was the primary school, where around 250 children attend their 4 years primary cycle.

Fortunately the villagers were alerted by the authorities of the imminent danger and escaped in time: now they have to cope with the reconstruction and the psychological trauma of the loss of their houses.

Despite the difficulties, on the 1st of September in Jigok the school year restarted: the headmaster and the teachers managed to get some stationary and books from another school located 2 Km away and are now running classes on open air.

© UNICEF/DPRK/Cristina Brugiolo

The freezing winter however is approaching and the children of Jigok need to receive quick help for rebuilding their school and providing the furniture otherwise with the sub zero temperature of the Korean winter, they will not be able to continue to study.

In Pyongyang as well the heavy rains of August had severe consequences in the school system. Many districts of the city were submerged because the level of the two main rivers, Taedong and Potong was higher than the drainage level so the rainy water couldn’t flow down, submerging the first floors of the buildings.

In Rakrang district in Pyongyang for example, Tudan primary school has been severely damaged. “It is very dangerous to keep children in this building” says Mr. Kim Hyong Il, Chief of Education of the district.

The heavy rains of August hit severely the city and from the 10th the roof of this school started to collapse. “There was water everywhere” says the headmaster Mrs. Yun Yong Hi, “the rain was passing through the damaged roof and entering from the playground that was completely submerged. All the furniture got damaged”.

In order to resume classes the 300 children of this school have to walk for almost one hour to get to the nearest school where their teachers are waiting for them in the afternoon.

The damages of the Tudan school are beyond repair and a new school needs to be rebuilt. The Ministry of Education is facing the big challenge of repairing or reconstructing hundreds of schools and this effort might take many months to be completed.

UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education in order to provide basic emergency supplies to the most damaged schools and will provide brand new furniture and stationary to the damaged schools.

Children, who had already suffered from damages or losses in their houses, can find in the school a safe place where to re-start socializing and re-establish a sense of normalcy in their lives.

Prompt and quick response to provide the basic infrastructures and supplies to the damaged schools is necessary particularly now that the winter season is approaching: UNICEF with the Ministry of Education will work together to ensure that all children in affected areas can have a chance to go back to school.



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