The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Kyrgyz authorities have launched an initiative to ensure safe access to education at the start of the new school year in September for thousands of youngsters affected by the recent violence in the southern city of Osh. The ethnic clashes that erupted in southern Kyrgyzstan in June led to widespread displacement and seriously impacted the lives of children and teachers, many of whom have lost their homes or had to move. UNICEF estimates that a quarter of the nearly 400,000 people uprooted by the fighting in the cities of Osh and Jalalabad between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks are children. According to UN agencies, many families have returned to their places of origin with some sheltering in camps or staying with host families since their homes have been destroyed. At the same time, there are 400,000 children who need to start school in September and yet find their schools damaged or destroyed. The nationwide “Welcome to School” initiative, which was launched in the capital, Bishkek, on Monday and in Osh on Friday, is just one of several programmes UNICEF is carrying out to help children recover a sense of normalcy following recent events. Jonathan Veitch, UNICEF Representative in Kyrgyzstan, stressed that getting children back to school as quickly as possible is one of the most important emergency interventions than can take place.“Education is essential for developing children’s long-term opportunities and must not be interrupted,” he stated. “In addition, schools provide children with a sense of normalcy, which is crucial to their psychological well-being.”Under the initiative, UNICEF is creating temporary learning spaces and providing them with everything necessary for the learning process – tents, furniture, study aids for pupils and teachers, sports equipment, and activities for preschool children.Over 1,000 schools in Osh and Jalalabad will receive UNICEF’s “School-in-box” kits, and every primary school in Kyrgyzstan – some 2,015 – will receive recreation kits. Teaching materials on peace education have been secured for 72,000 teachers across the country, and local communities will be mobilized to ensure that children are safe both travelling to and from school and in the classrooms. 14 August 2010The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Kyrgyz authorities have launched an initiative to ensure safe access to education at the start of the new school year in September for thousands of youngsters affected by the recent violence in the southern city of Osh.