UN: More than 350 schools destroyed or severely damaged

BEIRUT (24 August 2006) - MORE THAN than 350 schools were destroyed or severely damaged during the month-long war in Lebanon, the United Nations children's agency said Thursday.

"Up to 50 schools in south Lebanon were completely destroyed as a result of the conflict. In addition there are as many as 300 other schools which suffered major damage," Simon Ingram, spokesman for UNICEF, told reporters.

A "ceasefire" between Israel and Hizbullah took effect on August 14 and the education minister said Wednesday that Lebanon is drafting plans to get children back to the classroom beginning October 9.

In addition to schools directly damaged, Ingram said about 150 others suffered "considerable wear and tear" and will need to be cleaned after they temporarily housed about 150,000 internally displaced people.

"So this plainly presents a massive challenge for the government and its partners," Ingram said.

Faced with the damaged schools, the education ministry is studying alternatives including prefabricated buildings, double shifts in private schools or bussing children to nearby villages at the ministry's expense.

While the government takes care of the infrastructure, UNICEF said it will assist with notebooks, pencils and other equipment and supplies.(AFP)

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