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In CAR capital, Bangui, UNICEF and partners are setting up temporary classrooms for over 20,000 displaced children

2014-02-04

BANGUI/DAKAR/GENEVA, 4 February 2014 - More than 20,000 children in Central African Republic (CAR) capital, Bangui, will start classes in temporary learning spaces after violence forced them to flee their homes and closed down their schools.

While all schools in the capital  have been closed since early December 2013, UNICEF and partners are setting up more than 100 temporary learning spaces at displacement sites in Bangui. Over 40 are already functioning and 160 sixty teachers have received early childhood development training from UNICEF to give classes to children from 3 – 5 years of age.

In Bossangoa and surrounding areas in the north-west of the country, UNICEF will set up more temporary learning spaces in communities where families are returning and finding schools that are damaged.

“If the displaced children cannot go back to schools, classrooms should come to them”, says UNICEF Deputy Representative in Central African Republic Judith Léveillée. “This is the idea behind the temporary learning spaces.  As soon as security allows it, the safe and permanent return of all teachers and students to schools is a crucial step on the road to peace and reconciliation”, she adds.

Temporary classrooms are a short-term solution and UNICEF will support the Ministry of Education in re-opening formal schools as soon as the security situation permits.

UNICEF is providing more than 500 kits for education and recreation at 20 displacement sites in Bangui. These kits include teaching materials, books and stationary, sports equipment and art supplies.

“Children have lost several months of schooling since the crisis started,” Ms Léveillée says. “It’s urgent for them to get access to a place where they can earn safely. Returning to class gives children a sense of a return to normalcy, stability, and hope for the future.”

In addition to the temporary learning spaces, UNICEF supports child-friendly spaces, which provide displaced children with psychosocial support and recreational activities.  

“I want the children in my class to forget the bad things they have seen. I want to make sure that they don’t turn to violence and retribution, but learn honesty and gentleness,” says Antoinette, one of the teachers at the UNICEF training. “A country without education has no future”, she adds.

The basic right to education is most at risk during times of crisis, but schools not only provide children with a safe place to learn, they are also an important part of the recovery process, says UNICEF.

Nearly half of Bangui’s residents who fled the violent clashed remain living in makeshift displacement camps.  Over the past year, 65 percent of 176 inspected schools across the country have been looted, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF is working with 11 NGO implementing partners in establishing the temporary learning spaces. 

UNICEF’s appeal for emergency operations in Central African Republic this year is for $62 million. The current funding shortfall is $59 million.

Support UNICEF's work in the Central African Republic by donating to the Emergency Relief Fund.

Note to editors

UNICEF is working with SOS, CORDAID, COHEB, Jesuit Relief Services, JUPEDEC, IDEALE, ECAC, BSF, ESF, REMOD and AIDE to help establish the temporary learning spaces.

With now more than 150 staff on the ground, UNICEF has considerably and rapidly scaled up its humanitarian presence/operations in CAR over the past weeks to be able to adequately respond to the growing magnitude and severity of this crisis. UNICEF is strengthening its field presence by reinforcing staff in established field offices in Bossangoa, Bambari and Kaga Bandoro as well as coordinating outreach strategies in the west and centre of the country.

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UNICEF
UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

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For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.