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Back to school in the Maldives

Over US $1 million of UNICEF-procured supplies delivered to equip tsunami-damaged schools

MALE, MALDIVES, 25 January 2005 - Only two weeks after the normal start date for the academic year all schoolchildren are today back in school in the Maldives Islands.

“This has been a magnificent cooperative effort by government, UN partners, NGOs and the communities producing really effective results” said Mr. Tom Bergmann-Harris, Head of Office, UNICEF Male’. He continued, “As getting children back to school is our UNICEF priority, we view having the schools open today, equipped and welcoming children into clean classrooms as a logistical triumph.” 

A ceremony was held to mark the first day of term on Madifushi island in Thaa Atoll, 150 kms south of the capital. Here the tsunami threw fishing boats across the narrow strip of land and destroyed 60 houses. Today only a cleared expanse of land marks where they stood, but the adjacent school which remained standing has been cleaned and repaired.

Minister of Education, Hon Dr. Mehmood Shoughee, attended the ceremony and noted how, despite the losses the tsunami brought, the enthusiasm of the communities for education has not been lost. Mr Bergmann Harris said, “I would like to pay tribute to the Ministry of Education for their cooperation in the effort to equip and open schools. When we see children in the repaired classrooms it underlines how for UNICEF, the place where the development challenges of the future can be addressed is the school. With the schools now open, the future of children in the Maldives can begin to look bright.”

After the tsunami struck, one in three schools were left damaged, impacting more than 30,000 children, one in three of the Maldives Islands’ students. Today, concerted effort by the island communities has resulted in rubble being cleared away from classrooms and debris lifted off playgrounds. 

In locations where displaced people are assembling after evacuation from their islands, or in cases where the school is so structurally damaged it is not safe, there are temporary tented structures in place. Where there is not enough space for all children at once, teaching is being done on a two or three shift system so everyone has their lessons.

In the massive ongoing relief effort UNICEF procured and delivered supplies to the 47 schools affected by the tsunami on 26 December. In the four weeks since the disaster over US $1 million has been spent on school supplies and associated freight costs.

Donations to UNICEF to help the Maldives in its recovery have come from Japan, the European Union, the USA, UK, Finland, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Canada. With the total now standing at $19,162.400, the Maldives Islands has received 97.7 percent of the amount requested in the initial appeal.

In one recent 7 day period alone 40 metric tonnes of education supplies arrived at the airport, were delivered by boat to the capital, Male’ and re-packed into consignments for each individual school and class. Volunteer teachers, supervisors and youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts and the Cadet Corps worked throughout  the Eid holiday weekend to shift the massive quantities of textbooks. In the past two weeks schools on every island have received some new equipment, with the school in the box kit dispatched to 79 schools.

For more information contact: Julia Spry-Leverton, Tel: 960 791729




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