Still recovering from the massive destruction caused by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004, Sri Lankans faced fresh challenges in 2006 due to a resurgence of civil conflict. Three million people were affected and half a million forced to abandon homes, schools and medical facilities in many cases only recently rebuilt.
Education is central to restoring routine for children and provides them opportunity to socialize and develop their skills. Unfortunately the conflict created additional numbers of internally displaced persons, including many children, putting great strain on schools in some areas.
Temporary learning spaces
UNICEF reacted quickly, identifying locations for the construction of temporary learning spaces in the eastern coastal communities of Batticaloa, Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi. Having employed UNOPS to design and implement many post-tsunami infrastructure projects, UNICEF again engaged UNOPS to ensure swift and effective project delivery.
UNOPS took responsibility for "direct implementation" of the project, assuming the role of construction contractor, designing the learning spaces, preparing budgets, procuring and transporting necessary materials, hiring and managing labourers and providing engineering oversight to ensure high quality, safe facilities.
Working closely with school principals and local civil society groups, UNOPS constructed 35 temporary learning spaces in the Batticaloa area in just three months. In Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and surrounding villages UNOPS built a further 38 learning spaces and 29 safe recreation areas where children, many of them traumatized by the conflict, could play.
This was achieved despite continuing security problems in the region, which have made it difficult to transport building materials to sites.
In total the temporary learning spaces now provide some 45,000 displaced students with the comfortable learning environment they need and deserve.
Vinoda (pictured) fled her town with her family to escape the escalating violence. She now lives with her uncle and attends a school built by UNOPS on behalf of UNICEF.
Despite distance from her family she is happy to be back at school: "Due to the situation in my area I have had to make many new friends with children like myself who had to leave their families and come to Sivangar Maha Vidyala School. But I feel like I have made a new family here".