The desks are a welcome addition to the school, which has been running in tents since the tsunami struck Car Nicobar island in December 2004.
By Priyanka Khanna
Car Nicobar, January 2006 - Seena cannot stop smiling. The shiny new desks in place of the old muddy mats in her classroom came as a wonderful surprise for her and her friends. “They are better than anything I imagined!” she said, clutching the corner of her new desk with her tiny fingers.
The desks are a welcome addition to their school, which has been running in tents since the tsunami struck Car Nicobar island in December 2004. Located on the seashore of Sawai village, their school was badly damaged, left with gaping holes in place of walls.
“In addition to the obvious benefits, the furniture will bring them some psychological relief.”
“For the children, the ruins of the school are a constant reminder of that fateful day and what they lost,” said Wilson Amos, a district education officer, adding: “In addition to the obvious benefits, the furniture will bring them some psychological relief.”
Car Nicobar lies in the heart of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It bore the full fury of the tsunami in December 2004.
The inaccessibility of these islands is a major challenge in the rehabilitation process. There is no direct air link between the Indian mainland and Car Nicobar. The two-and-a-half hour flight from Chennai to Port Blair, plus the 12 hours by sea to Car Nicobar can test the most keenly planned logistical operations.
Damaged ports and jetties compound difficulties. “Bringing material to the islands or carrying out assembly work is a logistical nightmare,” says UNICEF programme coordinator Subhash Misra.
“The ordeal is not over once supplies reach the islands. As the villagers have moved deep inland where there is no road connectivity, we had to resort to sending supplies by tractors to some of the places,” says Subhash.
The delight shown by children over the new desks was well worth the effort, Subhash said. “Their smiles are the best reward we can get.”