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Accelerating girls' education in South Asia: UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy’s visits Thailand

© UNICEF/HQ05-0198/Mohan
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy visits with children in tsunami-affected areas of Thailand.

PHANG NGA, Thailand, 4 February 2005—UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy was in southern Thailand on Friday visiting schools and coastal areas that were hard hit by December’s devastating tsunami.

Ms. Bellamy visited many primary schools in the Phang Nga province, where the tsunami caused the greatest damage. The Tublamu primary school was among the schools destroyed. Ms. Bellamy spoke with students, including 10-year-old Puik, seven-year-old Suintip and her twelve-year-old sister, Oranne, all of whom lost their mothers.

According to The Associated Press, after walking through ruined classrooms at the Tublamu School, Ms. Bellamy said that "the needs here in Thailand, for the Thai people, are largely long-term rebuilding of livelihoods and community.”

UNICEF’s Thailand office estimates that 12 schools were seriously damaged by the tsunami. But attendance remains low; only about half of the students returned to school on schedule in the first week of 2005.

“Schools are the second most important institution for these children after their own family. Teachers are like second parents to them,” said Programme Coordinator for UNICEF Thailand Andrew Morris. “It’s vitally important that all these children go back to school, back to an environment with which they are very familiar.”

Ms. Bellamy also told the Associated Press  that tsunami-affected children need to return to normalcy by returning to school, and she added that, “in some cases, for the most traumatized, some particular (medical) assistance will be very important."

On Thursday, Ms. Bellamy was a special guest at the MTV Asia Aid benefit concert in Bangkok. A majority of the funds raised will go to UNICEF for continuing tsunami relief efforts.  On stage, Ms. Bellamy told 11,000 screaming fans that “we’re here to help.”

On Monday, Ms. Bellamy will return  to Bangkok to address international education experts gathered to galvanize efforts to advance girls’ education in South Asia.  She will call on regional leaders at the meeting ‘Accelerating Girls’ Education in South Asia – 2005 and Beyond’ to capitalize on opportunities to improve educational systems throughout the region as they rebuild schools in tsunami-affected areas.

The meeting brings representatives of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations together with education experts and government officials.  Ms. Bellamy will encourage the leaders to embrace the concept of schools as safe havens and child-friendly spaces, where the right of every child to learn, grow and play is respected.



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