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At a glance: Indonesia

Children in Aceh anticipate opening of first post-tsunami permanent school

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Estey
Dinda, 9, writes on a chalkboard at Muhammadiyah temporary school in Banda Aceh, which she has attended since the tsunami. Next month, Dinda and friends will move into their new child-friendly and earthquake-resistant school building.

By Daniel Ziv

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 25 May 2006 – Children in Aceh are eagerly awaiting the opening of the first of many schools UNICEF is helping to build in place of those swept away by the Indian Ocean tsunami. 

In line with UNICEF’s ‘build back better’ post-tsunami recovery plan, the ambitious project calls for 367 new schools to be built in Aceh over the next three years, all to the highest construction and educational standards. They will replace the temporary facilities children have been attending since the disaster.

“We’ll have way more space, and more toys, and even new friends, because we’re told a lot more kids will be joining us in the new building,” says Rachmat, 10, as he peeks over the fence of his temporary school to the construction site on the other side.

Making the most of life at school

Rachmat’s family used to live in Lamdingin, one of the areas worst hit by the December 2004 tsunami, and escaped death at the very last minute by piling into a neighbor’s car and fleeing the encroaching waves. Rachmat now lives with his parents and four siblings in a temporary housing camp in the foothills just outside Banda Aceh. Each morning a school bus takes him and two of his brothers to the Muhammadiyah school in central Banda Aceh.

© UNICEF Indonesia/2006/Stechert
The first school to be ‘built back better’ in post-tsunami Aceh, Indonesia, is expected to be completed in June. UNICEF is planning to open 367 new schools in the province over the next three years.

The temporary school facility, established by UNICEF shortly after the tsunami, is already a decent learning facility. Classrooms are spacious and the children manage to play and participate in sports classes in the courtyard that separates the school’s two wings.

Dinda, 9, is another young tsunami survivor who seems to be making the very most of her new life at Muhammadiyah. One of the school’s top students, she is so popular among teachers that when her parents identified a different school closer to home, the teachers begged them to leave Dinda at Muhammadiyah.

“The teachers here really care for her,” says Dinda’s mother, Afnita, “and she doesn’t seem to mind the 35-minute ride each morning. Especially now that she knows they’ll soon be moving into the new school building.”

‘Child-friendly’ facilities

At home after school, tiny Dinda sits behind the big desk of what doubles as an evening pharmacy, managed by a neighbor. She helps package the medicines sold to patients and admits that she considers this to be professional training for the future. “I am planning to be a doctor when I grow up,” she says firmly. 

“I hope the new school will be done soon,” Dinda adds as we stroll through the grounds of the construction site. “They’re telling us it will be ready next month. I keep looking at it, it seems so big and I wonder what it will be like when we get to study in there!” 

The defining quality of the new schools is that they will be ‘child-friendly’. By that, UNICEF means each school will have safe drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls, and access for the disabled, among other facilities.

This project is part of a $90 million investment in Aceh’s and North Sumatra’s education system, which is expected to take at least three years to complete.



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