Friday, 16 April 2010

Back to School

The calendar said late February and I had been in and out of that particular classroom many times, before I noticed that the date of the earthquake was still written on top of the blackboard. It was partly covered behind a tall pile of kidney beans in boxes.

'12 January' it said in white chalk. In the right hand top corner a small matrix showed the roll call: 2 absent boys and 43 present boys and girls. "I wonder how many of them will return to this school - if ever - and when?" I thought to myself. That answer came Monday when the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Santo reopened.

In fact, it has been just a few days since most classrooms contained boxes with food donations and medical supplies.

Following the earthquake and the massive destruction of education facilities, classes were suspended on a national level and the SOS school was used as storage facility and office for the emergency relief programme of SOS Children's Villages.

When I saw the two lines of students filing up in the courtyard shortly before 7am I felt we were passing an important milestone on the road to recovery. School is back in. Life is starting again and is hopefully going to give children and parents a feeling of normality and security.

After observing a minute of silence in memory of those who perished during the earthquake, school principal Myrtil Jean welcomed all returning and new pupils.

"Education is an obligation and a chance you get - so take it and work hard," he advised.

"Class 9 is now in this room, class 6 in that one," he then said and pointed to the very room where I had seen the date of the earthquake on the blackboard. I followed the students inside and was pleased to see the change in date. But I was even more pleased when I saw the roll call with the headcount: no absentees.

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