Monday, July 15, 2013

Ready to go back to school

By Nuraini Razak, UNICEF Indonesia

All that 11-year-old Dani wants is to go
back to school and play with his friends.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2013/Rizal
Bener Meriah – Fitra Ramadhani, or Dani as his friends call him is a cheerful 11 year-old boy who went to a local school in his village.  About to start the sixth grade, he likes to play soccer with his school friends. His village Cekal Baru was badly affected by the recent earthquake.

Dani’s father is a coffee farmer who has three children and another three other family members to take care of. His family had just barely recovered from losing his grandmother, and now the earthquake hit them.

In Aceh Tengah and Bener Meriah district, more than 372 schools have been badly damaged. The local students are anxious about their return to school, with the new school year due to start next week.

Dani's school was a quick walk from his home, but now he does not know where to go. His classroom has been destroyed.

He now spends his days at UNICEF’s temporary learning centre. His desires are modest, "Our house had been damaged, and sometimes I still think about the earthquake, but all I really want to do is to go back to school and play with my friends," he said.

Every morning his parents drop him off and look for food supplies at the local shelter. Until today, more than a week later, they are still sleeping outside the house in a tent, worried that the house may fall down or another earthquake might happen.

Saptinih, his mother said, "During the school holiday, all he talked about was school and being in the sixth grade, but now his school is gone."

The classrooms have been badly damaged by the earthquake; in many cases the walls have crumbled down and the floors are destroyed.

"Pak Geuchik (head of the village) told us that we could take Dani to the UNICEF tent next to the destroyed school, where he could play with friends until school started, and that the tent would also be his new classroom," she mentioned.

Geuchik Minto, the head of Cekal Baru village, Timang Gajah in Bener Meriah district said, "I was relieved when I heard that the tents were arriving. Two of my own children also went to school here. I really want them to get back to learning as soon as possible."

As this period coincides with the onset of Ramadan, the tents are also serving as a temporary mosque for the villagers.

"Four out of the five mosques in this village have been destroyed, but now children can at least use this space to study, and last night the villagers had a place for Tarawih (congregational prayers)," he added.

Minto, the head village of Cekal Baru, is glad that his community now has space for learning and praying.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2013/Rizal

As part of UNICEF's emergency response to the earthquake, UNICEF has also distributed a total of 70 School-in-a-Box kits, 35 recreation kits and 35 school tents to help the affected school children resume their studies and receive quality education as soon as possible for their upcoming school year.

In addition, in four separate locations, UNICEF has set up trauma centres to provide appropriate counseling to children. It is essential that children who have been traumatized by the quake and all its associated after-events get past their mental and emotional trauma.

Counselors and volunteers are working with the children through conversations, play and art therapy. Trauma centres have created the much needed safe spaces where children are free to be themselves once again.

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