Thousands of children may still be out of school in cyclone battered Fiji next week, warns Save the Children

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Thursday 25 February 2016

Thousands of children may be unable to return to school on Monday after cyclone Winston battered Fiji, says Save the Children.

According to the child rights agency, about 80 schools in Fiji have been flooded, damaged or completely destroyed. More than 30 others are being used as emergency shelters for homeless families.

Save the Children Fiji CEO Iris Low-McKenzie said thousands of students may still be unable to return to the classroom when most schools reopen on Monday.

“We know from decades of experience in emergencies that the longer children are out of school, the higher the risk that they may drop out of school permanently, with the most marginalised at greater risk,” she said.

“In the days, weeks and months ahead, we will work with the Ministry of Education in Fiji to ensure children in cyclone affected communities can get back to school as soon as possible.”

"Education, even non-formal lessons, will give children who have lived through this terrible ordeal a chance at normality, a safe place to learn, as well as be supported by caring teachers and classroom assistants,” added Ms Low-McKenzie.

Meanwhile, the death toll from Cyclone Winston has climbed to 28, with at least one child killed, over 150 people injured and more than 10,000 people sheltering in evacuation centres.

Save the Children has been working in Fiji since 1974 providing education and children protection services, and now the agency is working with the Ministry of Education to lead the education response to Cyclone Winston to support schools to reopen as soon as possible.

As well as coordinating the response, Save the Children will work with UNICEF to set up temporary classrooms to help get schools up and running, and will distribute school bag kits to students to ensure they are prepared to head back to school.