Providing children a safe space to learn
In Vanuatu, UNICEF supports reopening of schools after back-to-back cyclones
“When the roofs came off, many of the children’s books got wet, including their tables and chairs.”
Marilyne Metsan has been teaching at Saint Jeanne D'Arc Primary School for the past 25 years.
Located in Vanuatu’s capital, the school was one of the worst hit by the two back-to-back cyclones that recently devastated the country, destroying homes, schools, and other critical infrastructure that children rely on.
“As you can see the classrooms behind me, they have had their roofs blown off, our class 5 classrooms up there also lost their roof, including our class 3 classrooms,” says Marilyne, as she pointed to the classrooms damaged during the cyclones.
Recalling the days leading to the cyclone, Marilyne says “When we were told to prepare for Cyclone Judy, we had children in the classrooms. After we sent them home, the teachers started to pack away the teaching materials.”
Little did she know that within just 24 hours, another cyclone of category four intensity was going to hit the country.
“The second cyclone Kevin hit Vanuatu the next day, leaving us no time to go back to check the classrooms.”
Vanuatu battered by two back-to-back cyclones
On March 1, Tropical Cyclone Judy made landfall while Tropical Cyclone Kevin made landfall only a day after the first cyclone, on March 3.
Battered by two cyclones within a span of days – a very rare incident for the Pacific, the Government of Vanuatu on March 5, declared a six-month national emergency.
Thousands of families and children were left devastated, including teachers who came back to see roofs blown away, classrooms filled with water, books, chairs, and tables wet and lying on the classroom floors.
Preliminary assessment by Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office has revealed that about 100 of the country’s 288 schools are reported to have been damaged.
UNICEF supports children’s return to school
As an active partner of the education cluster, UNICEF has been working closely with other partners on the ground to support the Ministry of Education and Training through the provision of temporary learning spaces.
Temporary learning spaces supported by UNICEF include tents and tarpaulins and are setup in schools, following damage to classrooms, for teachers and children to continue learning in a safe space.
UNICEF also provided school-in-a-box kits, a set of classroom teaching and learning materials, and UNICEF backpacks, to ensure that, as children return to their classrooms, they are provided with the support they need to continue learning.
As data are coming in on the needs of schools across Vanuatu, UNICEF is also prepared to provide expanded support as relevant to fulfil the right of all children to safe, healthy and protective learning opportunities in Vanuatu.