Sulawesi quake: Children trickle back to school

Indonesia sends children back to school 10 days after a quake and tsunami devastated the city of Palu.
A family staying in a tent after the 7.4-magnitude earthquake destroyed their home at a suburb in the Indonesian city of Palu, in Central Sulawesi. The city is slowly picking up the pieces in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, with students retu
A family staying in a tent after the 7.4-magnitude earthquake destroyed their home at a suburb in the Indonesian city of Palu, in Central Sulawesi. The city is slowly picking up the pieces in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami, with students returning to their schools to tidy up their classrooms and assist in data-gathering in order to find out how many survived the disaster.PHOTO: REUTERS

PALU (Indonesia) • Children in the Indonesian city of Palu began returning to school yesterday to tidy up their classrooms and help gather data on how many will be coming back 10 days after a major earthquake and tsunami hit their city.

Across Palu, nine schools were destroyed, 22 teachers were killed and 14 missing, the national disaster agency said, adding that 140 tents have been set up for classes.

At one state high school, teenagers dressed in grey and white uniforms swept up broken glass in the classrooms. Trophies had fallen from a broken school showcase and the basketball court was cracked.

"It's sad to see our school like this," said Dewi Rahmawati, 17, who expects to graduate next year and wants to study economics at university.

The students found out that they had to turn up at school through messages on Facebook and WhatsApp.

School principal Kasiludin said that the authorities told all teachers to show up for work from yesterday to collect information on student numbers.

"We won't force the students to come back because many are traumatised. But we must start again soon to keep their spirits up and so they don't fall behind," he said.

  • $51m

  • Amount which the Indonesian government has allocated to help victims of the disaster.

The school had lost at least seven students and one teacher, he said.

At the SMP Negeri 15 Palu middle school, fewer than 50 of its 697 students showed up.

School principal Abdul Rashid said he was aware of four students killed in the disaster.

"Classes haven't started. We're only collecting data to find out how many students are safe," he said.

"I'm still waiting for the Ministry of Education to give us instructions on when to begin classes.

"For now, I don't think we're ready. Many children are traumatised and frightened."

 
 
 
 

One boy chatting in the school compound with friends said he was sad that so few of his classmates had shown up.

"I haven't heard from so many of them. I want to think positively; I hope they are OK," said Muhamad Islam Bintang Lima.

Most of the deaths from the quake and tsunami were in Palu, the region's main urban centre.

Figures for more remote areas are trickling in but they seem to have suffered fewer deaths than the city.

Meanwhile, Indonesia is hosting an International Monetary Fund-World Bank meeting on the island of Bali this week, which has drawn some criticism from the political opposition.

"What is the benefit for us Indonesian people, especially in this time of catastrophe?" Mr Fadli Zon, Deputy Speaker of Parliament from the opposition nationalist Gerindra party, said on Twitter, taking issue with government spending on the meeting.

The government has allocated 560 billion rupiah (S$51 million) to help victims of the disaster.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2018, with the headline 'Children trickle back to school in quake-hit city'. Print Edition | Subscribe