Yangon, 28 November 2017 - Earlier today, UNICEF and the Government of Japan handed over to Myanmar’s Ministry of Education one of the 78 schools being constructed, rehabilitated or repaired with funding support from the Government and people of Japan. The school construction was in response to the devastating 2015 floods, which hit large parts of Ayeyarwady, Bago, Chin, Rakhine, Magway and Sagaing. Japan provided $10 million to UNICEF to support its efforts to ensure access to quality education for all children from all communities in Rakhine.
Taking place at the Kin Seik Basic Education Post-Primary School in Minbya Township, Rakhine State, the official hand-over ceremony was attended by the Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar, Tateshi Higuchi; UNICEF’s Deputy Representative, Paul Edwards; and Social Affairs Minister of the Rakhine Government, Dr. Chan Thar. After touring the school to observe the work undertaken, the Ambassador addressed the gathering, which included the 550 excited children from different ethnic groups, who attended the school before the disaster.
“These new buildings are a gift from the Japanese people to the students who are creating the future of Myanmar. It is constructed from the kindness of the Japanese people, who are thinking about the children of Myanmar and the country’s future” said H.E Tateshi Higuchi. “Japan is promoting the principles of “Build Back Better”, with better and stronger building standards and structures, so that the schools are more resilient to future floods and other natural disasters”.
Prone to cyclones, floods and earthquakes, Rakhine is one of the poorest States in Myanmar with 30 percent of children not enrolled in primary school. It is also home to over 120,000 displaced persons as a result of intercommunal tensions.
Natural disasters and conflict disrupt children’s education, so when in 2015 the flooding destroyed a staggering 11 percent of all schools affecting over 64,000 students, the Japanese Government teamed up with UNICEF. In Rakhine it is supporting the repair, rehabilitation or reconstruction of a total of 78 schools through UNICEF, as part of its commitment to support 493 schools across Myanmar.
Working with locally based construction companies, UNICEF engineers ensured that all the work carried out complied with the organisation’s safe, gender-sensitive disability-friendly school standards. This means, for example, building separate latrines for boys and girls as well as sanitation and handwashing facilities that are easily accessible to children with disabilities. UNICEF’s focus was on large and/or remote schools with the aim of benefiting the maximum number of children, whilst also helping those in hard to reach areas.
With some 30 schools still being repaired across the State, including 22 in northern Rakhine, the target is to benefit over 25,000 children from all communities. In addition to the construction work, UNICEF and partners have also conducted teacher training, training of school administrators and delivered “School Kits” that contain backpacks for children and other essential school materials like whiteboards, first aid and recreational kits.
“Today marks an important milestone not only for these schools, but also for the wider community,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative Paul Edwards. “Investing in children’s education in Rakhine State, can help break the cycle that traps children in the same poverty their parents’ experience and create a better future for all children”.