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AQEP Helps Fiji 'Build Back Better' after Tropical Cyclone Winston

The Palladium-managed Access to Quality Education Program is working with DFAT and the Fijian Ministry of Education to help rebuild schools after Category Five Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Cyclone Winston, the strongest cyclone to ever hit Fiji and with some of the highest wind speeds at landfall ever recorded, hit Fiji on the morning of Sunday the 21st of February. UNICEF estimates that over 120,000 children have been moderately to severely affected, 40% of the child population of Fiji, with 34% of schools - 306 - damaged or destroyed. The cost of school repairs is currently estimated at around AUD 33.4 million, with 12 schools still functioning as evacuation centres. The Australian Government has initially pledged AUD 15 million of support to Fiji in response to Tropical Cyclone Winston.

The Access to Quality Education Program (AQEP), funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), has been working with the Australian Government and the Fijian Ministry of Education to respond to the immediate needs of the Program-supported schools.

AQEP currently provides program support to 85 schools nationwide in three areas: 1) Social Protection, 2) Infrastructure and 3) Building education support structures and systems. Through the use of the AQEP-facilitated Fijian Education Management Information System (FEMIS), and with support from UNICEF's Akvoflow, damage assessments are being carried out to provide up-to-date data to assist the Ministry of Education, NGOs and donors, including DFAT, in identifying the level of damage to the schools and where funding needs exist.

Utilising existing program structures, AQEP staff have delivered food packages to school teachers over the last two weeks and are planning with schools to commence emergency access programs to get children back into the classroom. These efforts include breakfast and lunch programs, as many communities have been left without food and water, as well as basic supplies for the classroom. AQEP staff are working alongside the Ministry of Education to plan for necessary renovations and rebuilding of damaged and destroyed schools, resupply of classroom materials and social protection support for students and teachers.

Repairs begin on a damaged Volivoli Primary School, Saqani, Vanuavelu - 3 March 2016. Image credit: DFAT.

Psychosocial support for students and teachers and the use of women's groups that understand the needs of both children and the community will also be key parts of AQEP's approach to overall recovery in Fiji.

As Fiji moves from emergency response to recovery, the AQEP will continue to provide support in its key focus areas. The renovation and rebuilding of schools will be a large part of the ongoing commitment to the education sector, with AQEP ensuring that children are returning to school to receive a quality education.