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Saturday 27 February 2010 | Published in Regional


Araura College students spent their first days back at school this week talking about their experiences during cyclone Pat.

Prior to the school reopening, teachers met with Tereora College guidance councillor Sarah Milne who coached the teachers on how to identify signs of trauma and depression among their students.

Araura College principal Enoa Raea told Cook Islands News that when school began on Tuesday morning, he held a school assembly aimed at making the students feel comfortable enough to speak about their experiences through cyclone Pat.

“I acknowledged that we the staff understand that many of the students and their families have lost a lot because of the cyclone,” said Raea.

“I also introduced Sarah to the students so that they can be familiar with her and talk to her if they wanted to.”

Milne said that while she hasn’t seen any symptoms of trauma among the students at school, she has told the teachers that stress would be the main symptom to watch out for.

“This is stress caused by worries of helping at home and making sure their families were alright,” said Milne.

“The main problem is that the students are tired – they’ve been working hard to clean up their family homes.”

Milne added that she has urged the teachers at the school to encourage their students to talk about the cyclone using the curriculum.

Raea said that on Wednesday only 133 of the school’s 221 students attended school.

“Not all our students have returned to school. Because of the tropical depression that damaged Penrhyn, the authorities decided we should keep the school closed because it’s the cyclone shelter for the village.”

But when the depression posed no danger to the island – the school reopened.

In the last few days, the defence force was able to repair the damaged roof of the school and the finishing work is to be completed by local contractors.

Meanwhile at the Araura Primary school, on the same grounds as the college, students were happily playing and reading in the only dry classroom at the school.

Ministry of Education operations manager Ina Herrmann was also on the island helping at the school and said she was happy with the progress of repairing the school considering the challenges they face.