UNICEF and NZ team up to get 14,000 kids in Tonga back in school

About 14,000 children will have the chance to continue their education, after Cyclone Gita damaged their schools, when UNICEF education in emergencies supplies are airlifted into Tonga Wednesday.

“The New Zealand Defence Force’s assistance in airlifting these UNICEF education supplies is key to ensuring the most vulnerable children in Tonga can return to school as soon as possible and regain a sense of normalcy in their disrupted lives,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Pacific Representative.

“UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education and Training in Tonga to reach thousands of children affected by this disaster by bringing the classrooms to the children after their schools were damaged in the cyclone,” Mr Yett added.

An assessment led by the Government of Tonga this week in Tongatapu and Eua Islands, reported that at least 129 classrooms in 83 primary and secondary schools were damaged in the cyclone, affecting an estimated 25,000 school students. In total, an estimated 32,000 children are impacted by Cyclone Gita.

Isikeli Oko, Deputy CEO for Education and Training at the Ministry of Education in Tonga, said, “We welcome these education supplies from UNICEF to support the students affected by this disaster. Many schools were damaged during the cyclone and we will begin repairing these buildings and classrooms, however the temporary classrooms will be of great assistance while this rebuilding takes place.”

The Education in Emergencies supplies from UNICEF will ensure students and their teachers are able to resume classes as soon as possible. The supplies include tents, which will be used as safe temporary learning spaces, teaching and learning supplies such as early childhood development kits, school-in-a-box and recreation kits, as well as backpacks for affected students.

“The New Zealand government supports Tonga’s disaster relief efforts, which put education as one of the priorities,” said Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand.

“We recognise the importance of getting children back to the classroom so they can move on and refocus on their studies, and we are pleased that we can support the Tongan Government and UNICEF in achieving this,” he added.

The school-in-a-box includes blackboards, pencils, paper, scissors, exercise books and other school materials, which allow children to continue their classes under a temporary shelter with their teacher. Each school-in-a-box becomes a classroom for 40 students. The lid to the box is used as a blackboard. Classroom supplies for school lessons are in the box.

The education supplies were airlifted from Fiji to Tonga by the New Zealand Defence Force Wednesday where they will now be delivered to affected communities, with UNICEF staff supporting the trainings in Tonga on how to set up the tents and temporary learning shelters for students.


Photo by UNICEF