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UNICEF calls for protection of schools and learning spaces

Dili, Timor-Leste - 10 August 2007 - In response to the ongoing unrest in certain parts of Timor-Leste, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is voicing strong condemnation to the destruction and vandalistion of schools, learning spaces, and play areas in the recent days.

‘UNICEF is absolutely concerned that children are once again the ones who suffer,’ said Shui-Meng Ng, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste. ‘We urge the adults to consider the future of all their children before they continue their destruction of public properties and create further unrest. Without a safe environment, and without proper classrooms or learning spaces, all your children will be adversely impacted.’

The school year started on 6 August, but for at least four districts learning has been disrupted. Reports from Baucau district indicate that at least three schools suffered damage to classrooms, while the Child-Friendly Space run by an NGO and supported by UNICEF (where pre-school and youth programmes were conducted) was completely burnt down. As a result, all learning activities in the district have been stopped for the safety of school-going children. Other districts such as Lautem, Liquica, and Manufahi also report similar threats and destruction or vandlism of school buildings. A child-friendly space based in an IDP camp in Dili was also vandalised yesterday.

UNICEF stresses that it is the right of every child to learn and to play. Therefore UNICEF urges the government, political leaders, and all the people of Timor-Leste to create and maintain a peaceful, and protective environment for children’s lives, their future and the future of the country.



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