Peru: Restarting a community school after the earthquake
As the rebuilding effort continues after the August 15 (2007) earthquake in Peru, parents and their children are now struggling to restart the school year in Pisco. There is widespread fear for the safety of children attending damaged schools, and many parents say they would prefer their children miss an entire year than be injured or killed in an unsafe building.
“People are still afraid, and do not want to send their children to our school,” said Máximo Escobar Peralta, director of Colegio Santísima Vírgen Inmaculada Concepción in Pisco. “Many parents are asking for its demolition, and our students have gone to other schools,” he explained.
Oxfam International is currently supplying 75 emergency classrooms built of bamboo and 16 semi-permanent, prefabricated rooms as part of its temporary shelter program. These classrooms will help 7,000 students in Humay, Independencia, and Pisco to restart their education.
Emotional support in school
Schools dedicated the first week of classes after the quake to the students’ emotional recovery. Schools offered psychological support, and called on students and their families to remain calm and move forward.
“We are happy to be back in school. In our homes, we were bored and scared. We are not bored anymore, but still a bit scared because we heard there will be a tsunami,” explained Meribeth Cutte Paredes, an 11-year-old sixth-grader who lives in San Andres, a district close to the sea.
Teachers and students adapt
“We are adapting to these conditions. We hold classes in pre-built classrooms erected in the schoolyard, and we have no blackboards,” said Rosa Lleren from the alternative basic education center CEBA-Bandera del Perú. Oxfam will install nine emergency classrooms in this school that will be used for the three shifts of students attending classes there. Each room will have its own blackboard.
After the earthquake many things have changed. Many students will not have their graduation ball, or athletic events.
“We were going to Cusco for our graduation trip but our plans have changed,” said Evelyn Neyra, a fifth-grader from Colegio Independencia. “Everything we have saved will be used to rebuild our homes.”
“Now all our efforts are directed to recovering the school year,” explained. Carlos Hernández, director of Colegio Los Libertadores 2244 in the town of Dos Palmas. “That’s why we are having classes on Saturdays and holidays and classes will extend until January 2008, one month after the end of the regular school year in Peru.”
In the middle of so many needs and so much sorrow, there are moments of consolation. On October 17, Colegio Bandera del Perú received a delegation of students and teachers from Colegio Peruano Británico, a private school from Arequipa.
Students from Colegio Bandera del Perú cannot hide their happiness with this visit. They play with the visiting students, take photos, and exchange e-mail addresses. It is a moment of joy in the midst of pain, showing how Peruvians, with the firm decision to move ahead, express their solidarity.