UNICEF supports resumption of education in Yushu earthquake zone
Remote schools face challenges of restoring schooling in high wind and extreme weather conditions
BEIJING, May 18 2010 – As earthquake relief pours into Yushu County, the area hit hardest by the 7.1-magnitude earthquake on April 14, outlying areas on the Qinghai Plateau still require urgent attention. In a recently concluded joint assessment mission to Yushu and Chenduo Counties in Qinghai Province, UNICEF and local educational authorities discovered that students and teachers are struggling to resume classes amidst high winds and extreme weather.
The mission was timed to coincide with the second of UNICEF's several shipments, and the distribution of 5,000 student kits, 5,000 sets of children's winter jackets, trousers and socks and 2,000 pairs of children's boots, all provided by UNICEF, to children in Yushu and Chenduo counties from May 9th to 13th.
More than 200 kilometers away from the epicentre, Qingshuihe Primary School in Chenduo County sits exposed among in snow-capped mountains at an altitude of 4,500 meters. UNICEF and its partners battled snow and sleet to reach this school. Around 1,300 students and 120 teachers there have been able to resume classes in UNICEF winterized school tents.
About 99 percent of school buildings for the student population of 10,000 in Chenduo County have sustained too much structural damage to use safely for classes and dormitories. In the days following the earthquake, UNICEF rushed 150 winterized school tents to nine school jurisdiction areas, allowing 7,500 students to return to school. "Without the tents provided by UNICEF, it would have been impossible for us to fully resume classes after the earthquake," Mr. Suo He, Vice Governor of Chenduo County said.
"We've seen very little assistance reach these places. UNICEF has been able to deliver school tents with double insulation so that children can resume schooling. It's a great privilege for us to be able to help, yet challenges remain because this high altitude plateau area suffers from extreme weather conditions. The average temperature around the year is minus 5 degrees Celsius and the winter lasts for eight months. We are looking at the government plan and will support its efforts to ensure that the children here can have quality education," David McLoughlin, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Office for China said during the mission.
Headmasters and local education authorities in Chenduo voiced deep worries that schooling may only last until the end of August. By then, the hazardous cold season will set in and winterized tents cannot shelter students against the high plateau's low temperatures, snows, sleet and severe winds. Though schools in the epicenter of Yushu County are moving to prefabricated classrooms, it may take much longer to set up such facilities in Chenduo and other areas, less-affected by the earthquake, but where needs are nonetheless urgent.
"It's a very tough time for the children, but they are so keen to be back in school. This is an area with a high degree of poverty and the children desperately want education," David McLoughlin said.
In addition to support for emergency education, UNICEF is also assisting the relief efforts of the Government of China in maternal and child health, hygiene and sanitation and psychosocial support to children affected by the earthquake.UNICEF is working closely with local counterparts to identify isolated schools where educational supplies remain inadequate and will help children in such schools enjoy equal access to continuous, quality education. UNICEF is also looking at the needs of boarding schools, where a vast majority of students and teachers live in tents without decent hygiene and warm clothes.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
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