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Cuban education seriously affected by Hurricane Gustav

© UNICEF Cuba/Arsenio García/2008
Agnerys shows us the remains of her school; which was partially destroyed by Hurricane Gustav.

Havana, Cuba, 8 September, 2008 - The community was preparing for the celebrations of the beginning of the new school year; its school had been selected to carry out the official municipality act as a reward for having achieved good academic results in the previous year. In the weeks before the beginning of the new school year students, parents and teachers worked together to prepare and renovate the building of the school, located in one of the municipalities of Pinar del Rio. This area is one of the areas that were most devastated by Hurricane Gustav.
Agnery is 9 years old, and is about to start 4th grade. She was very enthusiastic: she had already prepared her school bag with her notebook, pencils and the books she had been given.
“I feel very sad. I love my school. My class room was that one over there” she explains while showing us the building’s ruins; the walls full of drawings are falling apart and the roof was knocked down by the hurricane.
Agnerys’ sister Aibel, a 13-year-old who will enter the 8th grade of secondary school, tells us with tears in her eyes that she does not know anything yet about the state of her school.
The girls’ father describes how the hurricane hit their house: “We live in an apartment with blinds in the corners. The wind hit us so strong that the windows fell apart. The lock of the main door was broke. The two girls were holding the door to stop the wind from blowing into the house while I was trying to hold one of the broken windows. My youngest daughter was very scared that something would happen to herself or her parents. Eventually we decided to send the two girls to a safer house in the neighborhood. On our way there we saw tiles and bricks flying around”.

© UNICEF Cuba/2008/Mitjans
According to official reports, in Cuba, 100,000 houses suffered severe damages or were completely destroyed by hurricane Gustav, and about 60% of the families in the affected areas are without have electricity.

After hours of strong wind anticipating the hurricane's arrival, Gustav hit the settlement located on the occidental part of the island at 5 pm on Saturday the 30th. The neighbors of the municipality worked fast and efficient in an effort to lessen the damages.

The school headmaster tells us that even though the effects of the hurricane have been devastating, classes are very likely to start soon. “We want to start next week”. “Obviously we won’t be able to open up this school. Some families have provided rooms in their own houses, which we will be able to use as class rooms. The conditions are not the same due to the lack of space, but we think it may be possible…” The school has about 547 students from nursery school up to 6th grade.

During the United Nations agencies' visit to Pinar del Rio, the Vice-President of the province, Rafael de Jesus Fernandez told us that “600 of  the province's 930 schools were damaged, and some of them have been totally destroyed.” We want to resume classes as soon as possible although the relocation of the students will be difficult; 111 schools will have to delay the start of classes”
UNICEF has been closely monitoring the situation of children and adolescents since the very first hurricane warnings, and remains in constant communication with the Government's Civil Servants and Civil Defense.

For more information
Arsenio Garcia, agarcia@unicef.org, UNICEF  Cuba


UNICEF is working in more that 150 countries and territories in order to help guarantee children with the right to survive and guarantee their development from the first childhood up to adolescence. UNICEF is the biggest provider of vaccines in developing countries, it is working to improve  health and the nutrition in children; water supply and plumbing, elementary education for all boys and girls, their protection against violence and the preventing the spread of AIDS and other diseases. UNICEF is financed in its totality through the voluntary contribution of individuals, companies, associations and governments.


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