New school year has begun in Georgia but not all children back

19 September 2008Not all children in Georgia have been able to return to class even though the new school year began earlier this week, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is working to ensure access to education in the aftermath of last month’s conflict. The Caucasus country is still recovering from the fighting involving Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian forces that began on 8 August and uprooted some 192,000 people. Earlier this month, UNICEF, in partnership with the Government and other partners, launched a back-to-school campaign, ahead of the start of the new school year on 15 September.But the agency’s Robert Cohen told a news conference in Geneva today that only 143 out of the 220 schools in Tbilisi started classes, adding that many of the schools in the capital had not opened for classes because displaced persons were still living in them, or because repairs were being made. The students from those schools were being integrated into other schools, usually through a second shift system, he said. Most of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were not being sheltered in schools had been moved into kindergartens, and now all kindergartens in Tbilisi were occupied. The authorities said that all internally displaced schoolchildren – around 10,000 – would be in school by 1 October.Meanwhile, UNICEF has distributed to the authorities in Gori some 265 school-in-a-box kits and 235 recreation kits for 26,000 conflict-affected children in and around that Georgian town.Mr. Cohen added that a UNICEF team visiting villages in the buffer zone north of Gori yesterday had reported that schooling had not begun because the situation was not yet safe. The agency was working to get children back to school through the collection and distribution of textbooks, provision of school-in-a-box and recreation kits, improving hygiene in the schools and providing psychosocial support through teacher training. Also, mine-risk education had begun in communities in the Gori-Tskhinvali corridor. In a related development, the UN inter-agency humanitarian assessment mission that is visiting areas affected by the recent conflict has wrapped up two days of discussions in South Ossetia and has left for North Ossetia (Russia).

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