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UNICEF and partners advocate for safe schools as children prepare for new school year

©UNICEF Philippines/2014/Joey Reyna
Community members participate in the Brigada Eskwela program by cleaning the surroundings of the Sto. Niño SPED Center school in Tacloban City.

TACLOBAN, Philippines, 21 May 2014 – Some 550,000 children, teachers and day-care workers are expected to return back to learning on 2 June, nearly seven months after Typhoon Yolanda devastated 3,200 schools and day-care centres.  The back to learning in a new school year is a significant milestone.

As UNICEF and Education Cluster partners are supporting the Department of Education (DepED) in bringing children back to school in the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas, the importance of safe schools is high on the agenda. 

In the launch of Back to Learning in a Safe School campaign today, Department of Education Undersecretary Mario Deriquito said that DepED promotes schools as "safe havens" for children after the destruction caused by the super-typhoon, highlighting the 2014 Brigada Eskwela theme of "Making our Schools Safer".

Resuming education in a safe learning environment is a crucial element in helping children regain a sense of normalcy and stability after a major emergency such as Typhoon Yolanda. Schools must continue to provide a framework for psychosocial support that children need to recover from, and ensure that all children affected by the typhoon return to school.

©UNICEF Philippines/2014/Joey Reyna
Pupils march in a parade along with teachers, parents and other community stakeholders at the start of the "Welcome Back to Learning in a Safe School" programme in Tacloban City.

UNICEF is targeting 500,000 children to go back to school and continue learning in the affected regions. The Education Cluster, led by DepED, constitutes of organizations working in the education sector. The cluster mechanism seeks to make humanitarian assistance more effective through coordinating efforts, addressing and reducing gaps, maximizing resources, and by sharing strategic information and planning.

The Mayor of Tacloban Alfred Romualdez lauded the assistance of humanitarian partners in launching the Back to Learning in a Safe School. Aside from the campaign launch at the Kapangian Central School here, simultaneous activities are being conducted in schools across the affected regions.  

"Education is not only a basic human right, but a tool for recovery. UNICEF considers education an integral part of any humanitarian response to an emergency," said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Philippines Representative. 

From the outset, UNICEF supported continuing education in Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas with repairs for damaged classrooms, provision of supplies, teacher training on Education in Emergencies, psychosocial support and child-centered learning practices.

School-based disaster risk reduction is also promoted, involving activities by, for and with children, such as hazard and vulnerability mapping, school safety committees and school disaster planning linked to barangay early warning systems.

©UNICEF Philippines/2014/Joey Reyna
UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander signs the Pledge of Commitment during the "Welcome Back to Learning in a Safe School" programme at Kapangian Central School in Tacloban City.

To date, UNICEF and partners have reached 470,000 pre-school and school-aged children with learning supplies and materials in the affected areas. Some 135,000 children benefited from 1,351 temporary learning spaces equipped with school-in-a-box kits, and recreational and early childhood and development materials.

About 837 education service providers were trained on emergency-related subjects including disaster risk reduction and continuing education during emergencies. Psychosocial support for both teachers and students is a key area of intervention for the campaign. Special attention focused on life-skills programmes, such as health promotion and sanitation and good hygiene practices.




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