When the tsunami struck Aceh in 2004, over 2,000 schools were destroyed and many more were seriously damaged. Tragically thousands of teachers and students also lost their lives and many children were left with the prospect of being unable to complete their education.
The Suak Pandan elementary school in Meulaboh was one of the schools that was completely destroyed by the tsunami. The head-teacher of the school is 55-year-old Rosnia, who, like many others in the region lost everything in the tsunami; her house, her belongings and her beloved school.
Nine months after the disaster, Rosnia started teaching at the temporary school set up by Islamic Relief in one of the emergency camps. Here she taught 33 children in a tent with chairs and tables donated by Islamic Relief, but what she wanted more than anything was for her old school to be rebuilt.
Islamic Relief began building the school in 2006 and the new Suak Pandan school was opened in March 2007. While the old school was very small, the new building has six classrooms, offices for teachers, a clinic, library and a canteen.
“I was so touched by this beautiful new school,” Rosnia said. “I always dreamed that Suak Pandan would be rebuilt bigger and better.”
The school has a capacity to hold over 150 pupils but only 50 children attend at the moment. “I feel so sad,” Rosnia explained. “Even though we have got a beautiful new school building, we only have a few pupils. This is because around half of the children in the area were killed in the disaster.”
However, Rosnia has high hopes for the school in the future, and sees the younger generation as the source of that hope.
Teaching at Suak Pandan can be extremely challenging. Many of the students at the school lost their loved ones, homes and possessions in the disaster and are still haunted by it on a daily basis. Because of the trauma they have suffered, Rosnia and the other teachers have to be very patient and caring when working with them.
In order to provide those children still living in temporary camps with education, we have converted three buses into mobile learning centres. These have been stocked with books and travel to camps in Meulaboh, Calang and Banda Aceh, providing children with access to learning materials.