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At a glance: Peru

After devastating quake, getting Peruvian children back to school is a priority

UNICEF Image: Peru, earthquake, back to school
© UNICEF Peru/2007/ Bonaccini
Bryan, 9, stands with his two brothers inside what once was their home in Pisco. He says they have no more books or school supplies after the earthquake.

By Christine Skladany

PISCO, Peru, 30 August 2007 – More than 220,000 children in southern Peru are waiting to return to school after the devastating earthquake of 15 August. Getting back to school is one of the most effective ways for children to resume a sense of normalcy in their lives after a traumatic event. 

Nine-year-old Bryan from Pisco is anxious to get back to class. “We’ll probably have to study in the streets or in a tent, as our school is in bad shape after the earthquake,” he says.

Azucena, another primary school student in hard-hit Pisco, says she loves school and is bored spending all day in her family’s makeshift tent of fastened-together bedsheets. 

“I feel sad because I was in fifth grade and we were going to have a party for all of our friends graduating from sixth grade. Now there will be nothing,” she adds.

According to Peru’s Ministry of Education, children in nearly 1,000 affected schools will most likely continue their studies in prefabricated classrooms erected near the damaged school buildings. More than 300 temporary classrooms are being installed in Pisco and three other urban areas devastated by the earthquake.

Ensuring school safety

The task of reopening schools will be a major challenge on many fronts. Engineers and civil defense officials must inspect all schools in the quake-affected areas to ensure that they are safe. According to reports, hundreds more prefabricated classrooms will be required.

UNICEF Image: Peru, earthquake, back to school
© UNICEF Peru/2007/ Bonaccini
Azucena (left) has lived in this makeshift tent with her family since the earthquake and is eager to return to school.

Children and parents will require psychological counselling after living through this traumatic period. Many are still hungry and homeless and are afraid to be separated from their families. Students who have lost all of their belongings will also need UNICEF-supplied back-to-school kits in order to begin studying again.

Some 1,500 teachers fled the region after the disaster. Prior to classes starting, the returning teachers will receive psychological counselling to help them cope with the tragedy as well.

Sending positive messages

UNICEF is working in partnership with UNESCO, Peru’s Ministry of Education, non-governmental organizations specializing in education, and local and regional government officials to help children get back to school as quickly as possible. 

According to the Regional Director of Education in Ica, Baltazar Lantaron, an important next step in the process is reaching out to parents.

“We need to send out some positive messages to parents about how important it is to get children back to school, and to help them through this transition period,” said Mr. Lantaron. “Students are not going to have the physical and emotional capacity to return to the same point of their studies.”




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