Myanmar: Children not in school six months after cyclone


An estimated 300,000 children are still unable to attend school six months after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, according to a leading relief agency, Save the Children in Burma.

Andrew Kirkwood, the country director of the relief agency, said that following the cyclone: "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. Now, we've managed to get 100,000 of those kids back into school through, for example, the rebuilding of temporary schools, using relatively inexpensive materials."

Save the Children has rebuilt more than 350 temporary schools, according to a report it on October 31, highlighting the critical role of education in helping children recover.

"It's hard to overstate the importance of getting children back to school," said Kirkwood.

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

The father of a student in Bogalay Township said many children are not able to attend school because their family focuses on their daily survival, and they believe the children can live without an education for now.

A housewife in Bogalay said, "You can see many children along the roadside, some begging, some stealing things, some surrounding rubbish baskets and collecting plastic to sell it to earn money. Some parents of children don't want their children to go to school, and they tell their children to beg."

The relief agency estimated that around 40 percent of the 140,000 people who were killed or disappeared in the wake of the cyclone disaster were children. Many who survived were orphaned or separated from their parents.

According to a UNICEF report, it identified 220 orphans, 914 children separated from their parents, 302 "unaccompanied" children and 454 judged to be "extremely vulnerable."

More than half of all schools in the Irrawaddy delta were destroyed, according to Save the Children.

Recently, Kyaw Thu, Burma's deputy foreign minister and chairman of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG), the humanitarian assistance task force comprising Asean, the UN and the Burmese government, said in a press release: "Children are back in school, people are working again, the rice crop is due for harvesting shortly and transport and health facilities are again accessible."