The United Nations Children's Fund says all children displaced by last
month's war between Georgia and Russia will be back in school by
October 1. UNICEF says they will join thousands of other children
who began their school year on September 15. Lisa Schlein reports for
VOA from Geneva.
There were around 30,000 displaced children
when the United Nations Children's Fund began its back to school
campaign in Georgia a few weeks ago. Since then, the situation has
stabilized and most of the children and their families have returned to
the homes they fled during the brief war.
authorities say some 10,000 children are not yet able to return to
their homes and remain displaced. UNICEF Communications Officer Robert
Cohen says the authorities are making it possible for all of these
children to go back to school by October 1.
But he says they
will face some temporary inconveniences. "Out of 180 schools in
Tbilisi, there are 77 which have not yet opened for classes because
IDPs [Internally Displaced People] are still living in them or because
repairs are being made," said Cohen.
"The students from these
schools are being integrated into other schools, usually through a
second shift system. Most of the IDPs who were being sheltered in
schools have been moved into kindergartens or other accommodations," he
And this, says Cohen, creates other problems. He says
all kindergartens in the capital, Tbilisi, are occupied by IDPs. So
the authorities, he notes, are faced with the dilemma of needing to
open kindergartens while ensuring decent living conditions for homeless
"The government is now constructing housing for IDPs in
different areas of Georgia and according to the plan, by December first
all IDPs should have housing," said Cohen. "As these accommodations
become ready, the kindergartens will resume."
Cohen says the
situation for children in villages in the so-called buffer zone north
of the town of Gori is not as promising. The buffer zone is a strip of
land that lies on the border between Georgia and its breakaway region
of South Ossetia. Russian troops remain stationed in that area.
UNICEF aid workers who were able to visit villages there report schooling has not yet begun because conditions are still unsafe.
says UNICEF has distributed school supplies and recreation kits for
26,000 children. He says the agency is developing mine-risk education
programs to make children aware of the dangers of land mines and other
Cohen says surveys among displaced
children show many are severely traumatized by the war. He says
teachers in Gori and Tbilisi have been given crisis psychology training
to detect symptoms of stress among children.