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Next priority for children of Beslan: restore their faith in schooling

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, 16 September, 2004 – “The next priority for the children of Beslan must be to restore their faith in schooling” says Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative in the Russian Federation, following a visit to the stricken town and to nearby Vladikavkaz. A visit to the Republican Children’s Clinical Hospital in Vladikavkaz, where most wounded children have been hospitalised, brought the needs into sharp focus, as de Rooy explains.

“Most of the children we spoke to in the hospital, particularly the younger ones, do not want to go back to school, for obvious reasons,” de Rooy said.  “We know from past experience that education is a great healer for children who have lived through traumatic events. But for these children, their own school has become a place of terror. It is clear that they will need help to pick up all the pieces of their lives – their family life, their friendships and, very importantly, their schooling. It will only add to their tragedy if these children, who have already lost so much, also lose out on their education.”

UNICEF will help children pick up the pieces by supporting their psychological rehabilitation in their communities after they return from the resorts where they are being sent as part of the recovery process. UNICEF is also planning to support the seven schools of Beslan that will receive the children from School Number One where the hostage taking occurred. Through support to the whole education system in Beslan with such basics as desks, chairs, chalkboards and textbooks, UNICEF can help to make schools more comfortable and attractive to children again as it is clear that even those children in Beslan not directly involved in the events of 1-3 September are uneasy with the idea of going to school.

“We also need to recognise the very real danger of further divisions between different ethnic and religious groups as a result of the Beslan siege,” says de Rooy. “And we need to confront that danger by promoting dialogue, tolerance and the peaceful settlement of disputes, particularly among the younger generation.” 

Carel de Rooy was in Beslan and nearby Vladikavkaz on 14-15 September to meet children and parents and have discussions with the President of North Ossetia, Alexander Dzasokhov, on the next phase of UNICEF support.

“In close coordination with our international humanitarian aid partners in the North Caucasus, we sent emergency medical supplies to hospitals in Beslan and Vladikavkaz the moment the siege ended, with more trucks going in last week,” says de Rooy. “Now we must focus on the medium and long term needs of a community that has been through hell.”

For further information, please contact:

Angela Hawke, UNICEF CEE/CIS and Baltics: (+4122) 909 5433, ahawke@unicef.org
Marc Vergara, UNICEF Geneva (+4122) 909 5718, mvergara@unicef.org




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