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NZ Prime Minister to students in Tonga: With a good education, anything is possible.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in the UNICEF supported tent at Fasi Primary School.

TONGA, 8 March, 2018: About 200 primary school students sitting under their UNICEF tents and shelters cheered and clapped as the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ms Jacinda Ardern, visited their Government Primary School Fasi, in Nuku’alofa, on Wednesday.

Speaking to the children at the school event, Prime Minister Ardern, said, “We know that you need more than books, you need your roofs to be fixed. When you have access to a really good education then you can do absolutely anything you can dream of.”

During the school visit, Prime Minister Ardern had the chance to see what it is like for the children in one of the tents provided by UNICEF in the disaster’s wake.  The New Zealand Defence Force airlifted 53 tents and other UNICEF emergency supplies to Tonga from Fiji within a day. This helped ensure children were back in school within two weeks of the cyclone.

Colourful posters decorated the tent, and the children proudly showed the Prime Minister their class. Nearby, the damage of the cyclone is still evident, with the children’s artwork one of the few things that remains on the walls of the damaged classrooms.

An assessment led by the Government of Tonga in Tongatapu and Eua Islands, reported that about half the primary and secondary schools in Tonga were damaged in the cyclone, affecting an estimated 25,000 school students.

UNICEF Pacific Deputy Representative, Ms Vathinee Jitjaturunt, said, “These education supplies are supporting 14,000 children to get back to their classes as quickly as possible. It is a pleasure to see so many smiling faces of the students here today, they have been through so much but now they are back in their classes learning once again.”

The Rt. Hon. Minister for Education, Penisimani 'Epenisa Fifita, thanked UNICEF for their support in getting students back to classes so quickly with the tents and materials provided, as well as welcoming the commitment made from Prime Minister Ardern of NZ$7million to support in rebuilding the schools damaged in the cyclone. 

The specially designed tents are being used as safe temporary learning spaces until the schools can be rebuilt or repaired. UNICEF also provided other teaching and learning supplies such as early childhood development kits, school-in-a-box and recreation kits, as well as backpacks for affected students.

The school-in-a-box includes blackboards, pencils, paper, scissors, exercise books and other school materials, which allow children to continue their classes under a temporary shelter with their teacher. Each school-in-a-box becomes a classroom for 40 students. The lid to the box is used as a blackboard. Classroom supplies for school lessons are in the box.


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

Photos of the event in the link here:

For more information, please contact:

Cate Heinrich, UNICEF Pacific, Tel: +679 9925 606 or +676 8402694,



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