My own hiding place in rainy weather: For the love of a tent

8 year old fourth grader at Imaru Primary School, James, loves drawing and colouring inside the UNICEF supplied tent when it rains and the tent shutters and door are zipped tight to stop the rain from coming in.

“My name is James. I am 8 years old and I go to Imaru Primary School”, said the fourth grader. “Here is my red table inside the tent. I like hiding in the tent and curling up to read a book when it rains and the door and shutters are zipped tight to stop rain drops from coming in,” James said proudly holding up his drawing of the tent adventure.

James is one of approximately 300 children at Imaru Primary School who went to school in a UNICEF-supplied tent since the Category 5 Cyclone Pam completely wiped out five of their classrooms and damaged another four two years ago.

8 year old Netty (left) and 12 year old Annoline (right) go to school in tents set up side by side that house grades 4 and 5 at Imaru Primary School talk about hiding out in the tent to read and draw when it rains and opening the door and shutters wide when the sun is beaming to let the breeze flow through to stop them falling asleep in class.

Eight year old Netty, similar to James, talked about the novel experience of going to school in a tent making her excited to return to school.

“I like to open the flaps and shutters wide when the sun is beaming to let the breeze flow through to stop us falling asleep in class from the heat,” 8 year old Netty said matter-of-factly. “It does get a bit hot when it’s sunny. We’ve also put up our tent under the big banyan tree to keep it cool,” she said.

“Imaru Primary School was lucky to receive tents and other supplies after Cyclone Pam”, said Fanley, fourth grade teacher at Imaru. “I like teaching in the tent. Sometimes it’s hard to stick things up on the walls like in a permanent building because the walls get wet on the outside,” Fanley said.

Through the teacher and his students’ experience of a big cyclone like Pam two years ago followed closely by the El Nino period they make sure to talk about and practice what to do in the event of another cyclone. For Fanley it is important to have access to reliable and up-to-date information as teachers are a vital source of information for communities during emergencies.

Fourth graders at Imaru Primary School have been learning in one of the four tents received by their school in August when Cyclone Pam entirely destroyed four of their classrooms earlier in 2015.

“I must be well informed in order to update the community and the school on cyclones or other such events coming our way. This is so that communities and especially children are protected,” said Fanley.

Through UNICEF’s wider support to the Vanuatu Ministry of Education and Training in regular programming as well as in preparation for an emergency, planning for a disaster including the pre-positioning of supplies has been an ongoing activity.

UNICEF continues to work not only with the government but non-governmental organisations and civil society to build their capacity in emergency preparedness and planning. This is so that children like James and Netty can have something to smile about as they get back to routine after a big cyclone like Pam.

Fanley, grade 4 teacher at Imaru Primary School, drew on the Cyclone Pam experience to talk with children in his class about preparation for this cyclone season.
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