29 March 2015

600 children can resume their education after UNICEF school supplies reach Cyclone-hit Tongoa Island in Vanuatu

UNICEF Education emergency supplies arrive in Tongoa
on the 23rd March. UNICEF Pacific/2015/Kyaw
600 children on Tongoa Island, one of the 22 islands in Vanuatu hardest hit by Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam, have received school supplies from UNICEF that will allow them to return to school. 

Khin Maung Kyaw is an Education Field Officer from UNICEF Myanmar, who has been deployed to Vanuatu following a request from Vanuatu’s Ministry of Education and through the National Disaster Management Office to assist with the emergency response. Although this is his first time to Vanuatu he is no stranger to emergency repsonse including Cyclone Nargis which badly affected Myanmar in 2008. He tells the story of UNICEF’s efforts to get essential school supplies to children on remote Tongoa Island.

“It took me three flights over 24 hours to get to Vanuatu. As soon as I arrived we departed from Port Vila near midnight, travelling by boat with UNICEF school supplies. It took us two days to get there, we had to stop at several other islands on the way to drop off emergency relief supplies. The first night on the boat, the seas were really rough – we didn’t sleep much”. 

“We when we arrived at Tongoa Island we had to load the school supplies from our boat into a smaller one and transport them to shore this way. It was not easy but everyone got involved!” 

“There are seven primary schools in Tongoa and one junior secondary school.  Almost all were very badly damaged by the cyclone. In some cases the roof was torn off classrooms, allowing the rain and wind to damage everything inside. In one case we saw, the winds were so strong that the only thing left of one of the school buildings was its foundation!” 

As part of immediate assistance to Tongoa’s children who are now out of school, UNICEF has provided tents, backpacks with basic back-to-school supplies, ‘School in a Box’ kits (sufficient supplies to restart classes under schools can be repaired), Early Childhood Development Kits and Recreational Kits. 
A concrete pad is all that remains of a classroom'
completely destroyed by Cyclone Pam.
UNICEF Pacific/2015/Kyaw 
Members of the community came together and helped to set up the tents for the school children. “I met with the Island’s Administrator, as well as villagers, community members and school Principals from five different schools who came together for the children of Tongoa,” Khin Maung Kyaw added.

“A group of ladies also approached us and were so thankful to UNICEF for bringing the children these education supplies that will help their children start back at school again.”  

The children of Tongoa are very excited about the new backpacks that they will receive on Monday, when school begins again in the new ‘School in a box’ tents. Although they will be having their classes in the temporary shelter provided by UNICEF, they will be able to get back into a routine again after TC Pam disrupted their young lives, supporting their emotional recovery, keeping them safe from harm and supporting their continued learning at a difficult time. 

Supplies delivered to Tongoa Island included: 
  • 7x tents that can each accommodate 40 students 
  • 500x back packs each with basic back to school supplies
  • 3x School in a box for three schools 
  • 5x Early Childhood Development kits for the EC centers that were damaged 
  • 7x Recreation kits 

TC Pam did not spare the library of Ere Primary School in Lumbukuti,
Tongoa Island which was badly damaged, ruining precious reading materials
needed for students. UNICEF Pacific/2015/Kyaw

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