Myanmar Cyclone: Reconstruction of Primary Schools

It has been over one year since Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in May of last year. The Red Cross has been continuously pursuing activities of recovery support for the people in the Ayeyarwady Delta. Since April of this year, the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) with the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has started reconstruction of primary schools in one district and six townships in Ayeyarwady, such as Labutta, Kyaiklat, Dedaye, Bogale, Pyapon, Ngapudaw and Mawlamyinegyun. The following is the update from Ms. Yuko Tanaka Amada, the JRCS Representative in Myanmar.

Starting the Reconstruction of Primary Schools

Children studying at the temporary school

The MRCS is proceeding in rebuilding 84 primary schools in Ayeyarwady where over 4,000 schools collapsed or were damaged, and 80% still remain as temporary buildings. The schools in Ayeyarwady have suffered by inundation, being unable to hold classes during the rainy season. The new schools will be reinforced in the aspect of disaster prevention measures compared with conventional school buildings with higher bases (up to 1.5m), and with reinforced concrete columns which also prevent strong winds. Therefore, these schools can function as temporary shelters where people evacuate when rainstorms occur.

Efforts in the Labutta District

At the construction site, Yuko with children

In the Labutta District, there are about 60 primary schools that have already been reconstructed. However, this number only reaches 20% of schools which need to be reconstructed in the district. The Myanmar government designated the district as the most important area to support the reconstruction of schools. The 15 schools to be reconstructed by the MRCS in Labutta are 1) totally collapsed, 2) holding large number of students, 3) not supported by any organizations. Therefore, the expectation for the construction is very high. The primary school of Bogon Village is one of them. The main transportation in Ayeyarwady is boats, and it is inconvenient. However, Bogon Village has better accessibility because it takes only one hour from Labutta Town which is the capital town in the district. Bogon Village also has very active Red Cross volunteers. Bogon Village lost 228 lives by the cyclone, and now has 1,907 inhabitants. Among them, 735 (40% of the inhabitants) are school children who are going to study at new primary school. In addition, there are many other school children in Labutta who study at another school in the neighboring village where they normally hold classes in 2 or 3 rotations in order to manage and teach the number of school children. However, obviously it is hard for the neighboring school of Bogon to have enough space for 735 students to study. The children are willing to study at their own school as soon as possible. The MRCS is proceeding in the preparation for construction to respond to their voices, and started the construction in October, 2009.

Expectations and the Future of the Reconstruction of Schools

Village leader at the committee

The management of this reconstruction project is being done by the District/Township committee established among members of the MRCS and the local government (example: District/Township Peace and Development Council, education department and health department). Additionally, the other committee at the village level is established, MRCS, school headmasters and a local representative of the Village Peace and Development Council monitor the project with the committee. At the first committee meeting, the village leader said, “I have been worried that there will not be any primary schools to be reconstructed in the village, since classes already started in June. However, now I finally confirmed and I am relieved that there will certainly be a school in our village.” At the same time, “From our experience of lack of monitoring techniques, we want to see the construction of strong school buildings which are well monitored,” said the representative of the District Peace and Development Council with high expectations for the Red Cross Project for reconstruction of primary schools.