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At a glance: Indonesia

Back-to-school campaign under way in Aceh

UNICEF Image: Indonesia school construction
© UNICEF/2006/Stechert
Two teachers stand outside a UNICEF-constructed school building in Aceh, Indonesia, where UNICEF has already built over 140 semi- permanent schools and started work on 22 permanent schools.

By Lely Djuhari

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, 28 August 2006 – Basyirah, a third-grade elementary school teacher, could not suppress her glee as she recounted her experience in Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged region of Aceh.

Crash! She smashed a flowerpot – bought with funds from her own pocket – in front of her class. Her students jumped in shock at first but soon realized that she was not angry. She was only trying to teach fractions. The students got the concept instantly. The Indonesian word for fractions is literally ‘broken pieces’.

Basyariah has often had to resort to quite creative teaching methods. “We don’t have a ruler, a protractor to teach math or a wall clock to teach students about time,” she said. “I need to do more than depend on chalk and talk.”

To help teachers like Basyariah, UNICEF has focused its 2006 back-to-school campaign here on helping teachers, principals and schools improve the quality of education in Aceh, and providing hands-on training and school supplies.

Education system struggles

The 2004 tsunami and subsequent earthquakes completely wiped out some parts of the coastal area of Aceh and left as many as 170,000 people dead. More than 2,500 teachers lost their lives, and around 1,500 schools were destroyed.

Children are unable to study without school buildings, so those who work in education had little choice but to embark on construction projects. When so much of the spotlight is on rebuilding schools, however, the quality of the education is often overlooked.

UNICEF Image: Indonesia school construction
© UNICEF/2006/Stechert
UNICEF school supplies provided as part of this year’s back-to-school campaign in Aceh.

“Of course, school reconstruction is important, but we must not forget that we need to improve the quality of education,” said the head of the UNICEF Education Section in Aceh and Nias, Mohamed Fall.

Launched last month, this year's back-to-school campaign comes as a follow up to the earlier campaigns of July 2005 and January 2006, in which all children in Aceh and Nias were given backpacks containing learning materials and school supplies.

As a start this year, 43,000 teachers each received a teacher’s diary, a bag, pens, correction fluid, rulers, exercise books and a calculator. Every class got a protractor, a compass and metal and plastic rulers.

Training teachers and administrators

In a series of workshops, UNICEF has trained over 2,100 teachers in class and subject structuring and in the importance of having an interactive classroom. The training focuses on a teaching methodology that gets children to participate more actively than they would in traditional teacher-centred classes.

UNICEF is also training school administrators on how to manage and maintain school buildings, raise funds for operational costs and get parents involved in their children’s learning process. These trained teachers and principals are then going back to their clusters of schools and conveying the lessons learned to the others.

“Imagine, by helping one student we are helping her or his future, which is great,” said Mr. Fall. “But by helping a teacher, we can influence the lives of hundreds of students and help a new generation.”



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