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Zahira Primary (Hambantota) Builds Back Better

Assisted by the UK National Committee for UNICEF

COLOMBO, 30 August 2006 - More than 500 children, teachers and parents of Zahira Primary School, in Hambantota district, will today be the proud recipients of new primary school buildings.  This is the second project, completed under the UNICEF Schools Infrastructure Reconstruction Programme.  Earlier this month, the new buildings of Siddartha Primary school in Galle district were handed over.

This  programme aims to rebuild a total of 35 schools, which were destroyed or heavily damaged by the tsunami in December 2004, as well as schools  which have received children moving to newly constructed resettlement communities.  It will benefit approximately 20,000 children and teachers across the country.  In cooperation with Ministry of Education, UNICEF Sri Lanka supports the programme, and United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) manages construction.

Zahira School (primary and secondary) was one of the worst affected of the seven schools destroyed by tsunami in the Hambantota district. 98 students, five teachers and the principal fell victims to that fateful tragedy and the entire primary school section was destroyed.

Now the 500 students of the primary school have 12 new spacious classrooms, more play area, new sanitation facilities, staff quarters and a safe parapet wall around the school.   Facilities have been designed to create a child friendly learning environment where interactive teaching and child participation help children fully develop their potential.

According to UNICEF’s Representative in Sri Lanka, Jo Anna VanGerpen, the provision of a stable and secure environment for learning is of paramount importance so that children are able to move beyond the sad experience.  The new schools provide a better learning environment through larger classrooms, better equipment and more play space.   “This child friendly approach is applied to all school reconstruction in all tsunami affected areas” she emphasized.

Reconstruction of  Zahira Primary School is financially supported by the people of Britain, the Hunter Foundation and footballer David Beckham through the UK National Committee for UNICEF, one of 37 committees from around the world that raise funds to support UNICEF’s work for children globally.  The Committee donated more than US 1 million dollars to support the reconstruction of Zahira Primary and Secondary schools.


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:

Junko Mitani, Communication Officer, UNICEF Sri Lanka: Tel: 94-11-2555270 ext 250, Mobile: 94-0-777416742, Office:

Harasha Gunewardene, Media Consultant, UNICEF Sri Lanka:  Mobile: 94-0-773733781




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