Two boys walk over the steep hillsides of Haiti, the first time in a month they’ve been able to go to school. It was destroyed, like thousands of others, in the magnitude 7 earthquake. Government buildings too, were destroyed, including the ministry of education. Despite this, Haiti’s Minister of Education, based now in UNESCO’s Port au Prince office, has been hard at work to get Haitian children back to school in whatever way he can.
To help in this heroic effort, 150 UNICEF Schools In a Box, which include a stand-alone emergency school tent and school supplies, have arrived at the UN organization’s storage facility to cater to affected areas. After an intensive training session with volunteer Haitian boy scouts on erecting the tents, the distribution begins.
“Education is so important for the development of our country, says Joel Jean-Pierre, Minister of education in Haiti. It’s our foundation and the reconstruction of Haiti has to come first and foremost through education. A population that is educated will easily progress.”
The distribution of books, chalkboards, pencils and crayons mean that within minutes classes are in progress and have picked up where they left off one month ago. Besides the obvious benefits of getting an education, the return to school is also a return to normality for these children, all of whom have suffered through the horror of the quake. Many have lost their family, friend and home.
“We need to have a space where we can guard the children and give them some sense of normality, said Andrea Berther, UNICEF Education Specialist. “A lot of these children have been traumatized and also their parents, their teachers, the whole community. This is healing also. It gives them a space to come together and to express themselves and feel protected and also giving them the opportunity to come back and learn and not lose their school year that has started.”
Exactly one month after the quake these children can start to put the tragedy behind them. Are able to start moving on with their education and their lives. Mt Jacquot is the first of 150 school tents to be set up for the affected population by UNICEF in the coming weeks.
One 10-year-old boy expressed the sentiments of most children: “I’m happy to be back at school so now I don’t have to stay at home, I can get an education and become someone.” (UNICEF)