Communities shape #TheSchoolIwant

European Union invests EUR 15 million for the earthquake recovery of damaged education institutions

“The earthquake destroyed my home and my school. It was so sad to see them both collapse,” said Anila, who attends “Sherif Dervishi” School in Budull, Krujë — one of the municipalities hit by the 26 November earthquake that left behind destruction and desperation in Albania.

“The great news is that a more beautiful and safer school will replace the old one. I am here today together with my parents and my friends to discuss about how I want the new school to be. I have even sketched it,” she says showing ‘her dream school’ on paper.

26 November 2019

…Three months after the start of the new school year, life took an unexpected turn for school children in Central Albania.

Not only were their houses damaged, but their schools and kindergartens too, leaving them traumatized, anxious and uncertain about their future education. About their lives too.

“What will happen with our school? Will classes resume soon? When will I see my friends again? And the literature classes? I really miss the Football Tournament among the schools…”

These were the questions and anxieties that haunted school children for a while.

But there’s always hope.

On February 17, the European Union organised in Brussels the “Together for Albania” international Donors’ Conference, aiming to support reconstruction efforts after the devastating earthquake.

The European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank and the Government of Albania carried out a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment which served as a key guiding tool for the Donors’ Conference and as a basis for the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.

The European Commission pledged EUR 115 million from the EU budget, including a first EUR 15 million grant to rapidly reconstruct and rehabilitate key public buildings such as schools.

The “EU4Schools” Programme took off funded by the EU and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme in Albania.

“We promised to help and did so rapidly. Nothing better than schools can embody resilience and confidence in the future. Launching the EU’s post-earthquake assistance with schools of the highest international standards is the right thing to do. The response of the European Union proves once again that Albania is not only close geographically, but close to our hearts and concerns,” said the EU Ambassador to Albania Luigi Soreca during the signing of the “EU4Schools” Programme.

Currently, students and communities in five municipalities are benefiting from the EU funding — Kavaja, Kruja, Kamza, Durres and Kurbin — based on the needs identified by the Post Disaster Needs Assessment. 22 education facilities, including kindergartens, 9-years schools, joint schools and high-schools will be restored or rebuilt.

The recovery interventions are accompanied by mid- and longer-term strategies that aim to strengthen resilience and build capacity not only to reduce, but also to tackle the risks and effects of potential future disasters.

Building Forward Better

UNDP is combining a ‘Build Back Together’ approach with a ‘Build Forward Better’ vision within each municipality — bringing together local governments, communities and public institutions in designing and implementing rapid recovery activities through transparent systems — while at the same time promoting ownership and sustainability of the investment.

“‘Build Forward Better’ offers the opportunity to repair and rebuild stronger, safer, more disaster-resilient infrastructure and systems accompanied by higher standards. The restored education facilities will not only be resistant to future earthquakes as per Eurocode 8, but will also meet European standards concerning renewable energy, green spaces, running water, hygienic facilities, sports facilities and internet coverage, and what’s most important — provision of accessibility for students and other people with special needs. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all educational facilities being repaired or rebuild, will ensure that all necessary measures to safeguard the safety, well being and education of students, teachers and school personnel are implemented,” said Limya Eltayeb, UNDP Resident Representative in Albania.

School Children and Communities are having a say

To make the reconstruction efforts as participatory as possible, UNDP invited the communities’ school children, parents and teachers to have a say in the reconstruction work.

Over five hundred people participated in the 22 consultation sessions organised so far — a novelty for Albania.

“It is the very first time we are invited to discuss about the kind of school we and our children want,” said Fatime, a mother of 4, whose children study at the “Malbardhe” 9 Year School in Kurbin.

“The design company showed two school designs and provided details how the school would be. They assured us that the new school will be built as per European standards and our children can study in decent schools like any other European.”

“During the consultations today my friends and I asked for a library to support our learning, which would at the same time promote reading among our peers,” said Artan, a 14-year-old pupil of “Fiqiri Kurti” 9-year School in Kavaja Municipality, hosting 380 students.

Large classrooms, green spaces, sport facilities, security fences, heating and cooling systems are but a few among the many requests coming from children and communities. The school they want will soon be a tangible reality.

7,500 students will benefit from the restored education facilities, not only to continue their education process, but also take part in arts and sports events with their friends and teachers — this time in brand-new premises.

As they say, education is the passport to the future. The “EU4Schools” Programme is paving the way towards that.