Collapsed school buildings and severe cracking in classroom walls leave earthquake-hit Aceh with an education crisis on its hands
An education crisis is emerging among communities affected by Wednesday’s deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Aceh, warns Save the Children’s partner organisation Yayasan Sayangi Tunas Cilik (YSTC).
In Pidie Jaya district, one of the two worst affected, an estimated 25-30 percent of schools have been damaged, with at least seven schools totally destroyed.
“With so many aftershocks occurring, we’re afraid that a particularly strong tremor might be enough to bring down a classroom that has already been damaged by the initial earthquake,” YSTC Humanitarian Manager Ronald Sianipar said.
“We’re seeing a lot of class rooms with large cracking in the walls, and until they can be repaired and their structural integrity restored, they are not fit for use. This means thousands of children are indefinitely out school, which will have a huge impact on their recovery and wellbeing.
“When school buildings are safe, we know they are the best place for students to be following a disaster like this. It creates a sense of normality and safety and supports children’s emotional recovery.
YSTC’s earthquake response will focus heavily on education, including finding alternative classrooms for schools and setting up temporary classrooms.
The aid agency will also establish what’s known as a “child friendly space”, a special playgroup designed to support children’s psychosocial wellbeing following disasters like this.
“We cannot underestimate the importance of education and emotional support for children after such a distressing event, particularly in an area that was so badly affected by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami,” Mr Sianipar said.
“A lot of people here are feeling traumatized and distressed, especially given this earthquake occurred so close to the coastline. People are afraid of another tsunami.”
YSTC has deployed humanitarian personnel from Jakarta and is carrying out damage assessments to determine where it will respond. Shelter, education and hygiene kits are also on hand if required.
Save the Children mounted one of the largest humanitarian recovery efforts in Aceh following the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and along with many others groups have spent a decade investing in the region to better prepare them for natural disasters.
“On a pleasing note, it was great to see one of the schools Save the Children built after 2004 still standing and undamaged following this earthquake,” Mr Sianipar said.