Tropical Cyclone Yasa-affected children pack their school bags for the start of new school year

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Fiona, 12, is excited to be back at Dreketi Primary School for a new school year, after her school was damaged during severe Tropical Cyclone Yasa. © UNICEFPacific/2021/Stephen

Suva, Fiji, 19 January 2021 – More than 8000 Fijian children will now be able to resume learning as they head back to school this week after category five Tropical Cyclone Yasa caused widespread damage to schools in Vanua Levu, in the Northern Division of Fiji.

UNICEF has supported the Fijian Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts to ensure schools are ready to welcome children back this week through the provision of education supplies, including tents and tarpaulins for temporary learning spaces, and school-in-a-box that includes individual stationery with school bag packs for students, as well as teacher and classroom materials.

The Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts, Hon. Rosy Akbar, said, “On behalf of the Fijian Government, we thank UNICEF for its timely and valuable support after TC Yasa. This timely assistance has enabled many students to be back in school despite being affected by TC Yasa. It was a sigh of relief for many parents and brought smiles to our children.”

In addition, Early Childhood Development kits that include recreation and learning materials, along with water and hygiene kits, have also been distributed to support children start the new school year. UNICEF provided these supplies based on the data that was gathered by the Government of Fiji during damage assessments post Tropical Cyclone Yasa. Head teachers and school managers will also receive training supported by UNICEF to provide psychosocial care to school children and guidance on creating safe learning spaces.

“Every child deserves to have the opportunity to learn. UNICEF, along with our partners, are on the ground, supporting Fiji’s humanitarian response to hasten the recovery, and a return to normalcy,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. “As we welcome children back to school this week, UNICEF will continue to work closely with the Government of Fiji to ensure continuity of learning, especially with the challenges faced with a dual emergency of a category five cyclone and the ongoing pandemic.”

The Australian Government provided rapid and targeted logistics support to deliver UNICEF’s education supplies thanks to its Australian Defence Force. This has helped to have the temporary classrooms set up and supplies ready for when children return to school today.

Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes, said the Australian Government has been working closely with the Fijian Government and its Ministry of Education to support the opening of schools in time for the school year.

“It’s great to see that despite the impact TC Yasa had on school buildings, the Fijian Government was able to successfully manage the response so that Fijian children were able to start the school year on time and with smiles on their faces. We will continue to provide support to and work with the Fijian Government to ensure full recovery from TC Yasa. Watching the partnership between men and women from the Australian Army and the RFMF has been a highlight of the work on Vanua Levu – supporting each other on the ground and growing the Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership.”

Providing emergency response for a devastating natural disaster like Tropical Cyclone Yasa cannot be achieved alone. UNICEF acknowledges the support provided by the Australian Government in ensuring that these thousands of children are able to pack their bags for a new school year. The Government of the Republic of Korea also provided critical financial support to UNICEF for the cyclone response.

Notes to Editors:

About the Fijian Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts:

The Fijian Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts is responsible for the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of educational legislations, policies and programmes in Fiji. The Ministry provides the structures, human resources, budget and administrative and management support to ensure that the quality of service delivery is maintained at a high level.

For more information, please contact:

Fijian Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts: Alrina Ali, +679 9986490,
UNICEF Pacific: Cate Heinrich, +679 992 5606,