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UN: Children Returning to School in Earthquake Shattered Haiti

  • Lisa Schlein

The U.N. Children's Fund says many children in Haiti's capital Port au Prince are returning to school. UNICEF says it hopes to get about 375,000 children to return to school during the next two months.

Millions of children in Haiti have been out of school for almost three months, but now they are returning and UNICEF spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, says this is good news. "We all know that it is going to take time. But, I think that for parents and children to see that school is starting again, that life is starting again, it is going to give them at least a feeling of normality and a certain security," she said.

The January 12 earthquake took a heavy toll on students, teachers and school facilities. UNICEF says an estimated 38,000 students and more than 1,300 teachers and other education personnel were killed. It says more than 4,000 schools and the Ministry of Education's headquarters were destroyed.

Berthiaume says all this death and destruction has had a profound psychological effect on parents who are afraid to send their children back to school.

Even from a practical point of view, she says it will be difficult to provide a proper school environment. "Everything has been destroyed. You have to really to start from scratch. You need a table for kids, you need to make sure that there is water, that there are toilets, that teachers do have the material to teach and that the children have books, pencils ... They need everything," she said.

UNICEF, its partners and the Haitian government have erected 3,000 school tents. They have provided students and teachers with materials and recreational items.