Myanmar: Aid agency helps 100,000 Burmese children return to school

by Solomon

Tuesday, 18 November 2008, New Delhi - The international aid agency Save the Children claims they have assisted at least 100,000 Burmese children affected by Cyclone Nargis in returning to school.

The non-governmental organization (NGO), which has worked in Burma for more than a decade, released a press statement on Monday saying it has been instrumental in facilitating a hundred thousand Burmese children realize their current educational needs.

"The cyclone destroyed 50 to 60 percent of schools," said Save the Children in a press statement. "Yet over the past six months Save the Children has improved the quality of education for over 100,000 children including the construction of over 350 temporary schools."

However, Andrew Kirkwood, country director for Save the Children in Burma, said in the press statement that there remain hundreds of thousands of children in need of educational assistance in the wake of the storm.

"There's a huge demand for this, from communities and children - there were about 400,000 children who were not able to go to school because of the cyclone," said Andrew Kirkwood.

He added, "Now, we've managed to get 100,000 of those kids back into school through, for example, the rebuilding of temporary schools, using very inexpensive materials."

Cyclone Nargis struck Burma on May 2-3, 2008, and left more than 130,000 people dead or missing and over 2.4 million in need of aid.

Nonetheless, the Burmese military government initially obstructed the flow of international aid into the country, as well as restricting the issuance of visas to international aid workers and impeding their freedom of movement to cyclone affected areas.

Save the Children has been working in Burma since 1995, focusing on providing services benefiting pre-school children, reducing the number of deaths from preventable diseases, helping those infected with HIV and AIDS and preventing child trafficking.

"It's hard to overstate how important getting children back to school is," stated Kirkwood.

"The best way to deal with trauma is to normalize the lives of children, get them back into a routine, enable them to pick up what they were doing before the cyclone," he added.

A local source in Laputta Township, one of the hardest cyclone hit areas of Irrawaddy Division, said there a lot of children in villages around Laputta that still are finding it difficult to return to school.

"In the town there is no more problem with children attending school, but in villages there is still a risk that children will be unable to attend school," said the local source, who wished to remain anonymous.

She said NGOs and companies inside Burma are continuing the work of rebuilding the region's outlaying areas.

"I saw some children received school bags and learning materials provided by a NGO, but in villages there are children studying in temporary classrooms and there might be a number of children still away from school," she added.

More than a hundred school teachers in Laputta Township also received training in October, though schools in some villages are already late in commencing classes for the year.