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At a glance: Indonesia

UNICEF opens 200th child-friendly and earthquake-resistant school in Aceh

© UNICEF Indonesia/ 2009/ Stechert
Students, teachers, officials and members of the community in Aceh at the celebration of the opening of UNICEF’s 200th child-friendly school.

By Anna Stechert

ACEH, Indonesia, 20 February 2009 – For years after the December 2004 tsunami devastated Aceh, students from three different schools squeezed themselves into the only building left standing.

“Two schools were completely washed away by the tsunami,” said Principal Ibu Hj Kamaliah Syamaum. “SDN 67, the one in the middle, was a mess, but still usable.”

Now, the opening of the Aceh’s newest school – SDN 34 – is a step back to a normal educational routine for over 1,000 students and 50 teachers. The UNICEF-built school is child-friendly and earthquake resistant.

'Setting new standards in Indonesia'

To celebrate the opening of the new school this week, students performed the Acehnese welcome dance dressed in colourful traditional costumes. The whole school was decorated with plants and paper bows and a huge welcome banner hung from the stairwell.

SDN 34 is the 200th school that UNICEF has built in tsunami-affected Aceh and Nias – and with 22 classrooms, it is also the largest one.

The Director of Aceh’s Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency, Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, was led on a tour of the new school by Principal Ibu Hj Kamalia Syamaum. “This school is wonderful. It is setting new standards for Indonesia,” said Mr. Mangkusubroto.

Also present for the tour was the Director of the province’s Education Ministry.

A beautiful new school

The opening ceremony was especially moving when a sixth grader named Saiful stepped up to the microphone and gave a statement pledging the students’ commitment to taking ownership of their new school.

“On behalf of the students of this school, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to UNICEF for having built such a big, beautiful building for us,” Saiful said. “We would like to assure you that we will always take very good care of this school. It is our promise.”

The new school compound offers child-friendly features and safety measures such as large, well-ventilated and well-lit classrooms, separate toilets for boys and girls, a teachers’ office, a multi-purpose room and a library, as well as a large courtyard for sports activities.

Safer and more child-friendly

Besides being earthquake-resistant, the school has two exit doors per classroom and wider stairwells in front and back, so that, in case of an emergency, students and teachers can get out safely. 

SDN 34 was constructed by UNICEF’s implementing partner, the UN Office for Project Services. Aside from the 200 completed schools, 146 schools (built by three different implementing partners) are under construction in Aceh and Nias. UNICEF plans to have all the schools completed by the end of 2009.

“We can hold proper lessons again in safe and nice classrooms, and we have plenty of space for extracurricular activities,” said the school’s principal. “It’s a dream come true.”



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