Ra province, Viti Levu, Fiji. 26 February 2016.
A bearded man with a gentle smile looks up from hammering a tent stake into the ground and says “Bula” as we pull up to the school building.
Master Shahin Hussein straightens up and surveys his efforts, as well as the remains of his school, Dobuilevu Muslim Primary in Fiji’s Ra Province. The white tents stand tall amidst the debris of the school grounds.
The school caters to 108 students from six surrounding villages; all but one of its classrooms was destroyed when Category 5 Cyclone Winston ripped through Fiji in late February.
When asked about his experience of the cyclone he chuckles with a shrug as if it was nothing and says.
“Me and all my family members were inside the school. When the building flew away we were all under the table. Under the small table stuck there and we were watching, we saw with our eyes how the beam flew away”
People from the surrounding villages had started to flock to the school before the height of Cyclone Winston, sheltering in the classrooms where they thought they would be safe.
“We were occupying three rooms. When things started flying away and the louvres started busting inside and the wind started pushing the rain inside we had to run to the next room”.
As children play next to the tent Master Shahin tells us that the road to recovery is a long one but he knows it’s already happening in small steps.