With UNICEF’s help, Madagascar rebuilds shattered schools in wake of cyclones
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is helping to rebuild schools in Madagascar, which was battered by a series of cyclones and storms over a four-month period, leaving almost 150,000 children in the Indian Ocean country unable to attend classes.
On 15 March, Cyclone Indlala, with winds reaching 220 kilometres per hour, struck the island nation, leaving massive destruction and causing deaths. Before the country had time to recover, it was hit by Cyclone Jaya a few weeks later on 3 April.
Florine, age 8, climbed onto the roof of her partially destroyed home in Ambanja, in north-eastern Madagascar, to survey the damage.
Expressing her shock at the scale of the devastation, she said, “I saw houses submerged in water, including trees.”
She was also saddened to see that her school had been destroyed, with only trees and the sodden floor left in its place, causing her to wonder whether she would ever be able to attend school again.
Madagascar’s Ministry of Education estimates that 136 schools have been completely destroyed while 591 others have been partially destroyed since late last December when the first tropical storm of the season crashed into the country.
Rebuilding schools will be a slow and difficult process, but communities have made great strides to bring education to the children, with churches and community halls being used as classrooms, local carpenters crafting school benches and tables and masons transporting construction materials on their backs, often taking days to reach their destinations.
UNICEF’s Madagascar Representative Bruno Maes said that at least 54,000 children in the affected areas could return to school after this month’s midterm break.
The agency is “distributing tarpaulins, tents, schools supplies and School-in-a-Box kits in the north in Diana, Sofia and Maroantsetra, which are some of the hardest hit areas,” he said. The kits are portable and contain materials to conduct a full range of classes.
UNICEF is providing 90 aluminum, anti-termite classroom frames and is assisting the Government in setting them up.
The agency has also trained nearly 700 teachers in Maroantsetra to help mobilize the scattered pupil population. The teachers will be aided in their efforts by parents, communities and heads of education activity zones.