"This was no longer Las Tejerías, this was a disaster" Valennis, 11 years old
After a landslide in Las Tejerías, in the state of Aragua, more than 6,500 students and 458 teachers from 33 schools received comprehensive UNICEF support for a safe return to school.
On 8 October 2022, rain triggered a huge landslide in the city of Las Tejerías, in the state of Aragua, two hours from the capital of Venezuela. Over 50 people died, countless more were missing, and trees, vehicles, and homes were washed away or destroyed.
According to official figures, in the first 72 hours, more than 750 homes were destroyed, and 33 schools were affected, one was severely damaged. More than 1,000 children and adolescents would not be able to attend classes.
"We were down there in the center,” recalls 11-year-old Valennis Terrero. “My mother was working; it was raining, [and] they knocked on the door saying that the creek had overflowed. I was surprised and thought my dad was drowning. This was no longer Tejerías; this was a disaster."
Valennis is a smiling and gentle girl. Her mother is a teacher. She attends school every day, and this is one of her most vivid memories of the day she feared for her father’s life.
To support students’ safe return to school after the landslide, UNICEF, with local authorities, organized the demolition and rehabilitation of schools identified as high risk. Additionally, a strategy was developed to make the school a safe space, with access to protection, water, hygiene, sanitation, and nutrition during the emergency.
Valennis explains that she constantly invited her mother to see the psychologist because she knew she was sad and worried.
To help children get back to school, UNICEF provided socio-emotional support to the educational community, particularly teachers, to help them and equip them to provide emotional support to their students.
"Professor Laura helped us a lot in that workshop. She gave us that little push of [asking] how we were going to open the conversation. And it really helped me a lot from my point of view," says Yudeisi Vasquez, a teacher at Las Tejerías, of how the orientation helped her prepare to return to work. "As we go living with them [the students], they will be presenting emotions, and they will be taking out those emotions."
Teachers from the community of Tejerías explain during the activities how the landslide affected them and how much it cost them to return to the classroom. Many students, in addition to several of their co-workers, lost their families and belongings. They say the hardest thing was knowing there would be empty desks: the children who lost their lives in the tragedy.
"When I went back to school, I felt good because I saw my classmates. One of my friends lost her house. I feel bad because many have also lost their relatives," says Valennis.
UNICEF continues to support the city of Las Tejerías with health, nutrition, protection, water, hygiene and sanitation services, and education so children and adolescents in the community can continue their development after the emergency.