| Long line of pick-up trucks loaded with tents and other education emergency |
supplies ready for distribution to 11,000 children in more than 120
cyclone-affected early childhood centers and primary schools
Normally I dislike traffic jams, but I couldn't be happier to see this one. It doesn't matter that it’s 30 degrees Celsius here on Tanna Island, Vanuatu and that I’m drenched in sweat; seeing a long line of pick-up trucks loaded with tents and other education emergency supplies ready for distribution to 11,000 children in more than 120 cyclone-affected early childhood centers and primary schools makes my day.
It wasn't an easy task to create this traffic jam! About one month ago most of these supplies were stored in the UNICEF Supply Division warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since then, they've travelled by air, land and sea to get here, with the support of so many helping hands every step of the way. When the supplies arrived by boat on Tanna a human chain was formed, safely bringing these critically-important supplies to land for distribution all over the island.
|When the supplies arrived by boat on Tanna a human chain was formed, safely bringing|
these critically-important supplies to land for distribution all over the island.
This morning more than 70 head teachers and curriculum advisors became excited students as we opened the first boxes of supplies as part of an orientation at Isangel Primary School. It was a pleasure to see their enthusiasm when they learnt how to set up the tents; temporary spaces designed to help children resume their learning when their classrooms have been damaged or destroyed.
Mrs. Audrey Lesines, the head teacher at Isangel, tells me the children in her school are eager to start learning again, but the destruction caused by Category 5 Super Cyclone Pam left her with no choice but to send them home. The two large tents provided for her school by UNICEF will allow her students to return to their studies and the learning supplies that we’re also orienting teachers on will replace many of the teaching and learning materials lost in the cyclone. Every student in her school will also receive a UNICEF backpack stocked with essential learning supplies, allowing them to get straight back to learning at a time when family resources will be already stretched thin.
|Temporary spaces designed to help children resume their learning |
when their classrooms have been damaged or destroyed.
A few days ago, we had travelled across the island with our Ministry of Education and Training counterparts, visiting more than 10 affected schools to assess the unbelievable damage. When I walked into Tuhu Primary School’s library, I found myself wading through a mass of paper pulp on the ground; before the cyclone they had been textbooks and reading books.
At the orientation workshop it’s clear that the schools want to waste no time in getting these supplies home and in use. They have used their government school grants to hire pick-up trucks and, by the end of the next, day, almost all the supplies have been collected and whisked back to the waiting schools, students and communities.
On my way to the airport I see smiling children walking with UNICEF backpacks along the road. We overtake a pick-up truck heavily loaded with education emergency supplies and pass a school that has already started to set up their tents.
|Pick-up truck heavily loaded with education emergency supplies.|
By Simon Jan Molendijk