NEW YORK (February 4, 2014) – More than 20,000 children in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), will start classes in temporary learning spaces after violence forced them to flee their homes and closed down their schools.
While all schools in the capital have been closed since early December 2013, UNICEF and partners are setting up more than 100 temporary learning spaces at displacement sites in Bangui. More than 40 of them are already functioning, and 160 teachers have received early childhood development training from UNICEF to give classes to children ages three to five. UNICEF will also set up more temporary learning spaces in communities in Bossangoa and surrounding areas in the northwest of the country where families are returning to damaged schools.
“If the displaced children cannot go back to schools, classrooms should come to them,” says Judith Léveillée, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Central African Republic. “This is the idea behind the temporary learning spaces. As soon as security allows it, the safe and permanent return of all teachers and students to schools is a crucial step on the road to peace and reconciliation.”
UNICEF is providing more than 500 kits for education and recreation at 20 displacement sites in Bangui. These kits include teaching materials, books and stationary, sports equipment and art supplies. In addition to the temporary learning spaces, UNICEF supports child-friendly spaces, which provide displaced children with psychosocial support and recreational activities.
“Children have lost several months of schooling since the crisis started,” said Léveillée. “It’s urgent for them to get access to a place where they can learn safely. Returning to class gives children a sense of a return to normalcy, stability, and hope for the future.”
The basic right to education is most at risk during times of crisis, but schools not only provide children with a safe place to learn, they are also an important part of the recovery process, says UNICEF. Nearly half of Bangui’s residents who fled the violent clashed remain living in makeshift displacement camps. Over the past year, 65 percent of 176 inspected schools across the country have been looted, according to UNICEF. Temporary classrooms are a short-term solution, and UNICEF will support the Ministry of Education in re-opening formal schools as soon as the security situation permits.
“I want the children in my class to forget the bad things they have seen. I want to make sure that they don’t turn to violence and retribution, but learn honesty and gentleness,” says Antoinette, one of the teachers at the UNICEF training. “A country without education has no future”, she adds.
UNICEF has rapidly scaled up its humanitarian presence and operations in CAR to be able to adequately respond to the growing magnitude and severity of this crisis. UNICEF is strengthening its field presence by reinforcing staff in established field offices in Bossangoa, Bambari and Kaga Bandoro, as well as coordinating outreach strategies in the west and center of the country.
UNICEF’s appeal for emergency operations in Central African Republic this year is for $62 million; to-date, the appeal is more than 95 percent unfunded.
How to help: For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution to UNICEF’s relief efforts in CAR, please contact the U.S. Fund for UNICEF:
Toll free: 1-800-FOR-KIDS
Mail: 125 Maiden Lane, 10th Floor, New York, NY 10038
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.
For additional information, please contact:
Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, firstname.lastname@example.org