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Strengthening Schools in Tonga for a Brighter and More Resilient Future

Countries
Tonga
Sources
World Bank
Publication date
Origin
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Key Numbers

  • 9,000 students—around 40 percent of Tonga’s primary and secondary school students–benefited from the repair of schools

  • 109 of Tonga’s 150 schools were strengthened against future natural disasters

The Kingdom of Tonga, in the South Pacific, is known as the ‘Friendly Islands’ because of its rich culture and generous, warm-hearted people. Unfortunately, it is also known for being the country with the third highest risk for disasters in the world, given its extremely high exposure to cyclones, earthquakes, flooding, and the impacts of sea level rise. When disasters—now exacerbated by the effects of climate change—strike, the impacts can be devastating and widespread, affecting families’ livelihoods, healthcare, and education.

In February 2018, Tonga was hit by Category Four Tropical Cyclone Gita, which brought with it 220 kilometer-an-hour winds. The impact of the cyclone was massive, flattening homes and buildings, destroying schools, churches, and wiping out farms and livestock, leaving thousands of families’ livelihoods in tatters.

IDA’s Crisis Response Window was able to rapidly deliver emergency funds to assist Cyclone Gita disaster response and recovery initiatives. Further assistance was also made available through the Pacific Resilience Program (PREP), funded by IDA and the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. PREP seeks to strengthen Tonga’s resilience to natural disasters and climate change. The program began in 2015, but following the impacts of Cyclone Gita, the project received additional funding to support the reconstruction of schools—109 of Tonga’s 150 schools, home to 23,000 students, were impacted by the cyclone. This work has seen repairs and rebuilds of schools to higher resilience standards, to better defend them from future storms, cyclones and earthquakes.

"A good classroom atmosphere and a classroom that is safe and has better equipment, like having a whiteboard, will encourage students to do well in their studies. It will attract more students in the future as well. The students cannot wait to enter their new classrooms, in stronger schools and into brighter futures."

Siu Pulu Palu

A teacher at Mo’unga ‘Olive College

“Cyclone Gita greatly affected our classrooms and we felt hopeless, but words cannot express how happy and appreciative we are for the blessing that we receive today. I believe that these new classrooms will improve the College’s performance, one hundred percent,” says Siu Pulu Palu, a teacher at Mo’unga ‘Olive College, in the far east of Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu. “A good classroom atmosphere and a classroom that is safe and has better equipment, like having a whiteboard, will encourage students to do well in their studies. It will attract more students in the future as well. The students cannot wait to enter their new classrooms, in stronger schools and into brighter futures.”

Ensuring that Tongan students get back to safe and conducive learning spaces, and that these spaces are available to students for years to come, is a key component of a green and resilient future. By the end of 2020, more than 9,000 students—around 40 percent of Tonga’s primary and secondary school students—had benefited from these IDAsupported efforts.