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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Indonesia: Building new and improved schools

© UNICEF video
The children of Primary School Number One in Banda Aceh are taking classes in a temporary school until their new permanent school is built. Their original school building was completely destroyed by the tsunami.

By Steve Nettleton

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, December 2005 – Desks shake, pencils and markers roll to the floor. A warning bell sounds and the students of Primary School Number One in Banda Aceh race for the nearest exit. Yet there is no fear on the faces of these children. They file outside and sit in the schoolyard, as one of the students sings a call to prayer.

This is not a real earthquake. It is an emergency preparedness drill. It’s a new part of the curriculum at this school, which knows first-hand how destructive nature can be.

Primary School Number One and its 12 classrooms were destroyed by the tsunami one year ago. Only 78 of its 310 students survived. Of those, 32 have returned to class. The surviving students spent one semester integrated with another school in Banda Aceh.

In July, the school reopened its doors in its original location. The wooden, white building is a temporary structure built with support from UNICEF. It will house students until a permanent replacement is built.

Third-grade student Desi Asmaria is one of only three pupils from her class to return here. She says she feels happier to be back here than mixed with students at a school somewhere else. It’s a sentiment shared by children and teachers alike.
“If you stay at another person’s place, there is always bound to be trouble,” said third grade teacher Nurasiah. “We didn’t feel as comfortable. When we got word that UNICEF was going to build our school, we were overjoyed. Whatever happens, we must have our own place at the original location. We are proud and very grateful this school was rebuilt by UNICEF.”

Primary School Number One is part of an ambitious UNICEF plan to build or repair up to 500 permanent schools across Aceh and North Sumatra. Construction of the first school began in September and the process will continue for at least three years.

The new schools will have so-called “child-friendly” features, including safe drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls and access for the disabled.

“This programme is going to be able to serve about 120,000 children,” said UNICEF Head of Office for Banda Aceh, Edouard Beigbeder. “I think that here we have an opportunity to show that it is possible, after a crisis, with the donors’ response, to build back better.”

By building better structures for children to go back to school, UNICEF is helping provide strong foundation for tsunami-affected children on the road to recovery.




UNICEF’s Steve Nettleton reports from Banda Aceh on plans to build back better.

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