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Haitian boy plays with items from UNICEF A Haitian boy plays with items from a UNICEF "School-in-a-Box" at an orphanage in Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince. (Photo: Roger Lemoyne/Redux)

Back to School in Haiti

Dozens of temporary schools open in the quake-stricken country

By Laura Leigh Davidson | April 5 , 2010
Map: Jim McMahon
Map: Jim McMahon

After almost three months away from school, thousands of children in Haiti are going back to class. Students there have been away from classes that long because their schools were destroyed in a powerful earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation earlier this year.

On Monday, dozens of temporary schools opened in and around the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, allowing students to return to formal learning.

According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), more than 4,000 schools were destroyed when the earthquake struck Haiti on January 12. The country was devastated as more than 200,000 people died, many others were hurt, and a million more became homeless. Haiti's capital and surrounding areas were left in ruins.

Since January, international aid groups have been working to help the people of Haiti survive. In addition to getting Haitians the food, water, health care, and shelter they need, UNICEF has been working with the Haitian government to get children there back to school.

Rebuilding crumbled school buildings will take a long time, so officials came up with a short-term solution. They set up about 3,000 tents to house formal classes for the students affected by the earthquake. Monday marked the first mass opening of schools in Port-au-Prince.

School after the Disaster

Since the tragedy, volunteer teachers and aid workers have been holding informal classes in the camps where many survivors now live. Their lessons have come from "school-in-a-box" kits full of learning materials, and recreation activities.

Ten-year-old Taïma Celestin has been grateful for the informal lessons. "The classes [helped] me forget what happened, if only for a little while," she said.

Taïma is looking forward to learning her favorite subjects again."It'll be a great day for me, especially the math and French classes," she said.Taïma and her fellow students will be focused on more than traditional subjects like language, math, reading, and science. Teachers will use a special curriculum to help children learn more about basic life skills and disaster preparedness too.

Students will have the whole summer season to get in the groove of their new curriculum and learning locations. The school year has been extended through August to allow them to catch up.

Funds to Rebuild Haiti

As children in Haiti prepared to go back to school, a large group of world leaders met to discuss a plan for rebuilding the country. At a special conference held at the United Nations (UN) last week, more than 100 countries came together to discuss plans for restoring the devastated island nation.

Governments from around the world, including the United States, have officially pledged to donate $10 billion to help the people of Haiti rebuild.

Haiti was already very poor before the earthquake. The country’s needs became even greater after the disaster, and the Haitian government asked the UN for help.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the co-host of the special UN conference on Haiti. She said the United States would pledge more than $1 billion for long-term recovery, in addition to the $100 million the country donated in January.

Clinton said there was something more important than financial aid, however. She said empowering the Haitian people is vital to the country’s recovery.

"Aid is important, but aid has never saved a country," Clinton said. "[The Haitian people] are the ones who will carry on the work of rebuilding Haiti long after our involvement has ended."

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