Forty-year old Philippe Cheugui used to teach history and geography at a school in Danane, a town in western Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
Today, he is living under a tarpaulin shelter in Liberia’s Bahn camp, along with more than 4,000 others. He watches his wife cook beside the tent, his expression one of despair and relief. He knows they are fortunate to have survived.
"I left Côte d’Ivoire as a result of the violence, extreme physical abuse and deaths that took place after the presidential elections," he says. "Given that I was a teacher and someone who spoke about the problems facing our society publicly, I was targeted and beaten very severely."
Despite the uncertainty of his situation, Philippe is buoyed by an unexpected opportunity. He is now the head teacher of a primary school for Ivorian refugees supported by UNICEF. Around 800 children attend classes and are taught the same curriculum they followed back home by a team of 19 Ivorian teachers.
Help UNICEF provide for children and families displaced by conflict in Côte d'Ivoire.
"Education in emergency means that we keep children in school for protection reasons," explains Francesca Bonomo, UNICEF Education in Emergency Coordinator, "but we want to ensure that there is quality learning taking place."
UNICEF has been training the Ivorian teachers at the camp to help children cope with the crisis. Child-friendly spaces have been set up where teachers involve children in activities that ease their fears and concerns. Many of them witnessed their relatives being killed, some had close encounters with death and others got separated from their parents as they made their way to Liberia.
"We are using mostly qualified teachers, but most of them are lacking the skills to deal with children who are affected by this emergency, so we are training them to be able to improve the life skills of children," says Francesca. This includes training in psycho-social support and hygiene promotion.
However, a lack of resources means the school is unable to provide for the needs of all the children at the camp. The need for a second school is urgent.
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