Aura was one of the lucky ones. She is alive and well, with her house still standing. Her school though, has been destroyed.
The chairs and tables can’t be used, and some classrooms are still too dangerous to enter. Making the school safe again means removing broken furniture, mangled pieces of metal and shards of glass.
With government action and support from Plan International, slowly the classrooms are becoming safe for children. While the work continues, temporary learning spaces have been set up in tents pitched in playgrounds.
This isn’t school as the children know it, but the importance of education for the community in the effort to rebuild their lives cannot be understated.
For children like Putra, 9, it is essential.
“My house was hit by the earthquake so my family sleep in a tent.”
But learning keeps the hope alive.
“I was sad at first, but I am happy to go back to school”.
At least 1,200 schools were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, affecting about 184,000 students. Many schools across the region are still closed.
Head teacher Pahima Tahawi, 59, is helping to rebuild her community through education, despite loosing her own home in the earthquake.
“When the first earthquake happened, I was watching television with my grandchildren. We fled the house, and only returned when when we realised my husband was missing. He was trapped in the ruins of the building but we managed to pull him out and he was okay, except for an injury to his legs.”
And with the threat of tsunami, they had to run.
“By that time it was already pitch dark – it felt like doomsday. There were electric cables and ruins of houses everywhere. The road was not visible, so we had to find our way along in the darkness.”
Plan International is supporting teachers like Pahima to get back to teaching, and most importantly to look after the welfare of her students.
Her hope comes from Plan International supporters who have made it possible to get children back learning as quickly as possible. This means setting up temporary learning centres in tents and salvaged classrooms, and distributing school kits to maintain standards in lessons.
Her recent experience means Pahima is particularly supportive of the opportunity to train in preparation for future disasters. Plan International’s response means rolling out training for both teachers and students in disaster preparedness and first response. Because anyone can be a lifesaver when it comes down to it.
“I hope this disaster will be a lesson to all of us, to always be vigilant and know how to keep ourselves safe because we never know when the next natural disaster will happen.”
It will be a long road to recovery, especially as some children have no houses to go back to when the school day is done. But being back in the classroom and playing with friends will have brought some hope and happiness to children like Aura and Putra.
Thanks to supporters, there is every chance they will continue their education and regain their childhood.