6 April 2010 Nearly three months after the catastrophic earthquake which devastated Haiti, its Government has issued a call, backed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for the children of the Caribbean nation to go back to school.
The appeal for children to resume their education in the wake of the 12 January disaster will begin the process of sending 700,000 children back to school in the next two months, with the number expected to jump when the new academic year begins in September.
The Government said that the current school term will be extended until August to give children time to catch up on months of learning lost following the quake.
“There is a clear thirst for learning amongst children and families,” said Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans, UNICEF Representative in Haiti. “Families value education far above any other service and we want to embrace this passion for learning.”
The agency said in a news update that some 38,000 students and 1,300 teachers and other education personnel lost their lives in the quake, which also destroyed more than 4,000 schools as well as the Ministry of Education’s headquarters. Nearly 3 million students are believed to have had their schooling disrupted or halted altogether.
The quake struck close to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 people. It also left one third of the country’s 9 million people in need of aid.
UNICEF and its partners have been working with the Haitian Government provide 3,000 school tents, educational materials, recreational items and furniture for children whose schools were destroyed or who are seeking refuge in camps.
The agency has also provided seven prefabricated offices for the Ministry of Education and is working on plans to erect quake-proof schools.
In the coming months, UNICEF will continue working with the private sector – which schools some 80 per cent of Haitian students – as well as extend assistance to the most marginalized and excluded families.
Last week, dozens of nations and organizations pledged almost $10 billion in immediate and long-term aid to help Haiti recover from the quake at a day-long donors’ conference co-hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York.
More than $5 billion of that amount has been pledged for the next 18 months, well above the $3.9 billion sought for that period.
Haiti’s President René Préval expressed his thanks on behalf of his country at the 31 March event. “The international community has done their part,” he said. “Now it is up to the Haitian people to do theirs.”
News Tracker: past stories on this issue