UN appeals for donations to restore Haiti’s quake-devastated educational system

Haitian children

5 February 2010 – With hundreds of Haitian schools destroyed or damaged by last month’s devastating earthquake, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has launched a public appeal for donations to help re-establish the education system in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Of some 1,500 schools visited to date in the worst hit areas of Haiti, only 85 had escaped severe damage from the 12 January quake, which is estimated to have killed some 200,000 people, injured many others and left 2 million in need of aid, UNESCO said in a news release today.

The vast reconstruction effort to rebuild Port-au-Prince, the destroyed capital, will require skilled workers and UNESCO is also developing technical and vocational education and training for young people so that they may find employment and participate in this undertaking.

Significant contributions have also been pledged by Brazil, Bulgaria, Israel and the Norwegian Refugee Council for UNESCO initiatives in the country. A Brazilian donation of $400,000 will fund training for teachers in psycho-social support and disaster awareness, benefiting 110,000 secondary and higher education students.

Teachers and educational support staff will be trained to understand how learners are affected by the disaster; how to use learner-centred pedagogies and methods of behaviour management and make referrals for those who are severely traumatized, UNESCO said.

The agency has also been extending emergency support to the national education authorities, providing them with basic equipment and temporary work space, following the collapse of the Education Ministry’s building, and will provide basic training for ministry officials in emergency response planning and management.

Haiti’s only World Heritage site, an early 19th-century complex in the north of the country, which includes the ruins of a royal palace and the largest fortress of the Western Hemisphere, appears to have been largely spared by the quake. But the full impact on the property, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1982, is yet to be fully analyzed.

The agency is assessing damage to other cultural sites and mobilizing efforts to avert the danger of looting, calling for a temporary international ban on the trade in Haitian artefacts and asking the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) to provide round-the-clock protection to key landmarks and museums.

UNESCO is aiding attempts to rescue whatever panels or significant fragments remain of the remarkable painted murals that decorated the Episcopal Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Port-au-Prince, which collapsed in the quake, and is also working on training in anti-seismic construction techniques for the professionals who will be rebuilding the country. Many historical and cultural landmarks, including the Presidential Palace, churches and cathedrals, have been destroyed.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UNESCO moving to ensure Haitian artefacts are protected post-quake

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