Published Online: January 19, 2005
Published in Print: January 19, 2005, as International Baccalaureate Program Launches Rebuilding Effort

International Baccalaureate Program Launches Rebuilding Effort

The International Baccalaureate Organization, a nonprofit venture that provides curriculum programs to schools in 117 countries, is launching its own campaign to help schools in the devastated tsunami zone.

The Geneva-based organization is asking for $2 million to support community-service projects in the countries most heavily affected by the disaster in South Asia, beginning with Indonesia. It is also asking for teacher volunteers fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, the country’s official language, to volunteer for eight-week stints helping to rebuild schools. The Tsunami Appeal, as the initiative is called, was launched with an initial donation of $5,000 from an internal fund set up by IBO staff members worldwide.

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“In Indonesia, it’s just a catastrophe. A whole sort of swath of teachers have been wiped out,” said George Walker, the director-general of the organization, which reaches about 200,000 students a year around the world, including in the United States. The end-of-course IB tests, similar to Advanced Placement tests, are accepted by many colleges for credit.

The money that is being raised will support travel expenses for the volunteers, according to Peter Kenny, the head of its Asia-Pacific operations. Providing teachers on a temporary basis can help get schools back on their feet, he said, and the organization also hopes to train Indonesian college students to replace the educators who were killed. Undamaged International Baccalaureate schools in Indonesia will also be lending their support, he said.

‘Hope From Education’

International Baccalaureate officials said they’re embarking on an ambitious project. “We’ve never done anything of this scale,” Mr. Walker said.

A group of students in Panadura, Sri Lanka, holds a moment of silence last week to honor fellow students and teachers who died when the Dec. 26 tsunami hit their town. It was the students' first day back to classes since the disaster. Many children in the hard-hit parts of South Asia have returned to school, some in tents pitched near their destroyed school buildings.
—Elizabeth Dalziel/AP

But International Baccalaureate, which stresses community service as a part of its educational program, plans to work closely with other aid groups on the ground in the tsunami-affected regions, which Mr. Walker views as a long-term commitment.

“In a situation like this, people need hope, and hope comes from education,” he said. “We need this to show the people who remain that life has not come to an end.”

The organization has also dispatched Mr. Kenny to the region. He has spent time in Medan, a city in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. Though he has not traveled to Banda Aceh, the capital of one of the hardest-hit provinces, he has heard from aid workers and displaced residents about the devastation in that area of the country.

According to figures provided by the Indonesian government, Mr. Kenny said, more than 1,300 teachers in seven of the 11 tsunami-affected provincial districts in Aceh perished.

“Those who survived are extremely traumatized, and have their own family tragedies to deal with,” Mr. Kenny said. He had no estimates on the numbers of dead or missing school-age children.

Vol. 24, Issue 19, Page 10

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