Subject: RA: East Timorese children back in school after May violence

East Timorese children back in school after May violence

12.20pm Tuesday September 5, 2006

Up to 20,000 children in East Timor are returning to school this week, for the first time since the country descended into violence in May.

Most schools in Dili have failed to function for at least two months, and thousands of families are still living in refugee camps.

UNICEF is running a campaign to enrol as many children as possible as the new school year begins this week.

The agency's education head, Peter Ninnes, said thousands of students had missed out on weeks of school.

"People here still bear a lot of psychological scars from the various bouts of violence that have occurred in the country over the last seven or eight years," he said.

"And you know, when there is some sort of incident of violence then people really do think twice about going out, even during the day."

The unrest in May involved fighting between rival security force factions and ethnic gangs, leading to the deaths of at least 21 people and forcing about 150,000 people from their homes.

It had its origins in the March sacking of about 600 soldiers, who had deserted their barracks complaining of discrimination.


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