UNICEF and ECHO support the reopening of rural schools in Ecuador
Thanks to the donation of water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, more than 12,000 children in 118 rural schools in Ecuador have been able to resume face to face classes.
For 18 months and as a consequence of the pandemic, the waters of the Cayapas River, in the province of Esmeraldas, stopped seeing the children going up and down the river in their canoes to get to school.
Since July 2021, students from the 63 native Chachi, Épera and Afro-descendant communities living in the Eloy Alfaro canton in Esmeraldas Province have been gradually returning to face-to-face classes.
UNICEF, with the support of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), has implemented a water, sanitation and hygiene response that has allowed more than 12,000 children attending 118 rural schools in Ecuador to return to classes. Many of these educational institutions, as well as the communities where they are located, do not have drinking water or sewage services.
The intervention has included the donation of refillable hand-washing stations, jerry cans, water purification tablets, soap and alcohol gels, masks for teachers, signage to promote hand-washing and refurbishment of sanitary infrastructures in the schools, among other benefits.
UNICEF visited some of these communities in order to know what the reopening of schools has been like and how children and teachers have been feeling about the return to classes.
San José del Cayapas Community
Ariadna, 11, has been attending school again for two days now. "One of the things I like most about school is being able to spend time and play with my friends again," she says.
During the time she was studying from home, Ariadna says she had some difficulty doing homework at times because she didn't have her teacher by her side to explain to her when she didn't understand something. "At school it's different because the teacher teaches us on the chalkboard," she adds.
During UNICEF's tour of her community, San José de Cayapas, Ariadna shared her experience regarding the return to classes and the measures they are taking to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection.
As a teacher and principal of the Provincia del Cañar school, Irma Quiñonez is happy to be able to be together again with her students. She assures that working in person is not the same as working remotely.
"The pandemic has not affected us much in terms of infection because here in the countryside we are not as exposed as in the cities, however, as a teacher yes it did affect me a lot because I stopped seeing my students at school," Irma mentions.
Regarding the supplies donated by UNICEF, the educator mentions that it has helped them given that now the children can wash their hands properly. "They feel good, they feel clean. With access to clean water and soap, they can better protect themselves from COVID-19 infection."
Irma's students also express excitement about returning to classes. "I am happy to be back in class because I can play with my classmates and be with my teacher Irma. At home I had long since been bored just watching television. At school I play soccer and learn more," says Junior Javier, 12.
For her part, Merlía, 8, mentions that at home she was tired of washing dishes and doing household chores. "At school, I see the teacher, I write, I paint and play with my friends".
The right to go to school and learn is fundamental to the development, safety and well-being of all children.