Thursday, 15 December 2016

UNICEF tents help keep kids learning after Aceh quake

By Cory Rogers

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits UNICEF education tent at the worst affected area from the 7 December 2016 earthquake in Aceh.   

Pidie Jaya, Indonesia - As thousands arose for predawn prayers last Wednesday in Pidie Jaya, Aceh Province, the ground beneath them suddenly began to thrash: Within minutes, 3,000 homes had been reduced to rubble, the roads between them split open in gashes.

According to the latest data from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), 102 people were killed, over 300 injured and 85,000 displaced in the quake. A quarter of those killed were under the age of 18.

The effects of the earthquake go much further than the immediate impact however. Tens of thousands have lost their homes, but many others have lost access to services, to safe water, health and sanitation, not to mention education.
The BNPB is coordinating the response through a wide array of government line ministries through the national cluster for Displacement and Protection, Health, Logistics and Equipment, as well as Education clusters, supported by some 50 NGOs, four UN bodies and a handful private sector donors.

UNICEF was asked to join a Ministry of Education-led team to carry out a rapid assessment of damages to schools. The assessment covered three affected districts – Pidie Jaya, Pidie and Beriun – all of which lie on the northern Aceh coast near the quake’s epicentre.

“So far we have identified several gaps and needs in the field,” said UNICEF Education in Emergencies Specialist Yusra Tebe, who joined the assessment team. “Of the 296 schools in Pidie Jaya, 155 have been damaged by the quake, while 40 others are damaged beyond repair and cannot be used any longer,” he added. The data does not yet include an assessment of the Islamic schools in the affected area.

The Pidie Jaya Education Agency has recommended that pupils at schools destroyed or heavily damaged be sent to other schools in the early response and recovery phase wherever possible.

In some locations, however, the damage is just too severe for this to work, so it is here that education tents are being used as a temporary measure. Previously, UNICEF has supplied dozens of education tents to the Ministry of Education, which have been stored in North Sumatra to make them easier to mobilize at a moment’s notice.

“Last year we donated dozens of tents as well as education and recreation kits,” Yusra said. Their prepositioning allowed for the first tents to be set up in Pidie Jaya just days after the earthquake hit, over the weekend of 10 December.

“In total, we need 40 tents. The hope is that all will be set up by 2 January when school will start again,” Yusra explained. A state of emergency has been declared in the three districts, which overlaps with the holidays, so schools will therefore be shut until 2 January.

UNICEF Programme Assistant Said was present when the first education tent was raised at the Peulandok Tunong secondary school in Trienggadeng village. “The headmaster was so enthusiastic about the tent. It means that the students at his school won’t fall behind, and this is really important to him,” Said said.

In the meantime, children need to get back to a normal life as soon as possible, and part of that process is coming to terms with what has happened to them, their friends and their community. To help support this, local organizations are busy planning activities for them to occupy the schoolchildren this week.

 “I’m confident this can help children deal with the distress they have gone through,” said Said, which is all the more important given that aftershocks have rocked the three districts in the days since the quake, worsening the distress experienced by victims.

In addition to temporary schools, the response team identified the need for books, education materials and psychosocial support. Again making use of pre-positioned supplies, 21 UNICEF-donated Early Childhood Development (ECD) kits have been brought to Pidie Jaya from a supply station in North Sumatra. “Another 80 kits are in Medan and could be mobilized for relief efforts if requested,” Yusra said.

These kits, which contain dozens of items ranging from writing utensils and art supplies to puzzles and shirts, can be used by pupils as they await the rehabilitation or rebuilding of their schools.

Sutopo, the BPBN Head of Data, Information and Public Relations, said funds from the 2017 budget will be used to rebuild or rehabilitate schools in a way that they are more earthquake-resistant.