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After the floods, new schools provide normalcy and opportunities for communities in Pakistan

By David Youngmeyer

MUZAFFARGARH, Pakistan, 19 May 2011 – Children in the small village of Mullan Walla, in flood-affected Muzaffargarh District, were all smiles when they started class in a recently-opened UNICEF-supported school.

VIDEO: 19 May 2011 - UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on a UNICEF-supported school opening in the aftermath of last year's floods in Pakistan.  Watch in RealPlayer


The new three-classroom primary school in the province of Southern Punjab is bright, modern and airy – quite a difference from their old school, which was destroyed in last summer’s devastating floods. Each classroom is well-equipped with desks, chairs and a blackboard, along with learning materials like books, notebooks and learning games.

“We have been provided with a wonderful school, furniture and teaching materials,” says Headmaster Mukhtar Ahmad, who cannot speak highly enough of the new school. “This is something for us to rejoice. It is a lifetime reward for me that children of this area and village receive education and this will make me very happy."

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/ Ahmed
UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Dan Rohrmann talks to children attending the new semi-permanent school built in Muzaffargarh, Pakistan.

The school is one of six prototype Transitional School Structures, built to varying designs that are being set up in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan provinces. UNICEF is working with the Government of Pakistan, authorities and partners to select the most appropriate models for each one. The schools will then be rolled out in larger numbers.

Transition in recovery

The temporary schools represent a significant move from the emergency response phase of the flood disaster towards early recovery, and are a key component of the UN ‘Delivering as One’ programme.

The floods that hit Pakistan last July and September took a terrible toll on the country, affecting almost 20 million people. Children’s education was badly hit, with more than 10,000 schools damaged. Millions of families were displaced from their houses, seeking refuge in tent camps far from home.

There, UNICEF-supported Temporary Learning Centres, or tent classrooms, were set up, which enabled more than 260,000 children to continue their education, and in many cases attend school for the first time. In addition, UNICEF and partners distributed school supplies to more than half a million children.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/ Ahmed
The UNICEF-supported primary school in Muzaffargarh is a child-friendly learning environment that is well-equipped with educational supplies.

With almost all displaced people having left camps and returned to their areas or origin, the emphasis is now on replacing tent schools with more permanent classroom solutions.

‘Learning critical’

UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Dan Rohrmann, who opened the latest school, says it is critical that learning continues during humanitarian responses, “in order to create some normalcy for children during times of crisis.”

“Even more important is that they can continue with more formal learning and help fulfil the fundamental right of all children to a quality education,” he explains. “The Transitional School Structures are quick to build and relatively inexpensive.”

© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/ Ahmed
Children at the new UNICEF-supported primary school in Muzaffargarh, Pakistan. Six semi-permanent schools have been built in flood-affected provinces so far.

So far 314 children are attending classes at the new school, up from 121 students before the floods. A further 45 are getting set to enrol. Many of the new students are girls who are being exposed to learning for the first time.

Right to education

The schools are also an important community resource. “Apart from their use in general education, schools offer a convergence point for a whole range of community engagement,” says Mr. Rohrmann. “They are essentially a hub for local development and wellbeing, and represent education’s central place in the community.”

These include providing a venue for mothers to have their children screened for malnutrition, and for children to learn the importance of good hygiene. Construction of the Transitional School Structures is supported by Australian Agency for International Development, the Government of Italy, and the OPEC Fund for International Development.



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