The devastating 4th of April flash flood had initially affected over 80 schools in Honiara and Guadalcanal combined, with 52,318 school children affected. 14 of these schools were initially used as evacuation centers but this has now been reduced to two, namely, Mbokonavera and the Pavilion at the Solomon Islands National University, Panatina campus.
Flood waters, mud and debris, including garbage, were spread through school classrooms, offices and staff houses, destroying student’s exercise books and teacher’s teaching materials. In the 12 most affected schools, classroom furniture, toilets and water taps as well as staff houses and food gardens were damaged.
In her one week visit to affected areas in Honiara and Guadalcanal, UNICEF Pacific Representative Dr. Karen Allen visited some of these schools and acknowledged the hard, voluntary work by staff, parents and other community members in ensuring that classes resume and their children continue with their normal learning activities.
“Getting our children back to school post-emergency is important for two reasons. First, it is important for them to catch up on their lessons and learning. Second, it is an effective way to help restore stability and normalcy in their lives. This is crucial for every child who has gone through emergencies and also for those who have spent weeks in evacuation centers,” she added.
While many of these affected schools are currently undergoing repair and renovations Dr. Allen encourages schools, donors and humanitarian actors to adopt the early recovery principle of “Build Back Better”, meaning, take the opportunity to ensure that buildings, toilets, water systems and grounds are safe and sound and according to MOEHRD standards. Build Back Better also means that wherever possible, rehabilitation should be aimed at increasing disaster risk reduction.
“Rehabilitated facilities that are built back better will increase school enrollment, attendance, teacher morale and lead to better learning outcomes,” said Dr. Allen. Furthermore, if there is another flooding, disaster risk reduction measures will lessen the damage and cost of repair next time, so it is a good investment with a double return in the future,” she added.
Since the flood, UNICEF delivered three 24m² and two 80m² tents, nine “school in a box”, 10 early childhood development kits and two recreation kits to the FOPA and Holy Cross evacuation centers and to primary schools – Sali, Tumurora and Tuvaruhu schools to assist in the emergency response and in the early recovery process.
“We thank the Government of Australia for funding our contingency stocks last year, which were pre-positioned here in Honiara. We thank the Government of New Zealand for the funding this year, including for the tents. And we plan to procure more school supplies with funds from the UNICEF National Committee in Japan. UNICEF will continue to support the government through the MoEHRD on a coordinated response and recovery,” Dr. Allen remarked, “And our Solomons staff will work with MOEHRD on distribution of education kits next week to nine more affected schools.”