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Quake children return to tent schools

  • Story Highlights
  • Traumatized children attend tent schools as part of effort back to a normal life
  • Counselors on hand to talk with the children about the tragedy
  • It is estimated almost 7,000 schoolrooms were destroyed by the quake
  • Many parents who lost children say school were shoddily built
  • Next Article in World »
From CNN's Wilf Dinnick
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SHIFANG, China (CNN) -- With seconds to spare, 4-year-old Shang Tian-Zhu bolted out of his school as it crumbled to the ground in last month's massive earthquake.

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Students in a makeshift tent school near Mianyang city.

The memories of the May 12 quake still haunt the young boy, but holding tight to his mother he has returned to class for the first time in a makeshift school under the cover of a donated tent.

It is part of a countrywide attempt to help the children who lost their schools back towards a normal routine. But it brought a stream of tears to Shang's eyes.

Psychological counselors are also visiting the tent-schools to talk with the students about the tragedy.

"Our first goal is to make the children feel safe and only then can you talk about what they experienced," principal Shuan Jia said. Video Watch how children are returning to tent schools »

One technique is to sing familiar songs, helping children to "know they are not alone," counselor Stanley Siao from Peking University said.

"What we try and do is show the children they are together and loved," one teacher said.

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Shang's mother said: "He cannot go above a first floor or near tall buildings. He wakes up most nights, yelling 'earthquake!'"

Nearly 7,000 schoolrooms were destroyed by powerful earthquake, which killed nearly 70,000 people, according to the latest government figures. More than 18,000 people are still listed as missing three weeks after the quake.

Many parents who lost their children have complained about what they say is shoddy construction of the schools.

In the town of Wufu in Sichuan province, nearly every building remains standing, except for the primary school, where at least 200 children died. Some parents have threatened to sue the government; others have demanded a thorough investigation.

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The children who walked away from those collapsed schoolhouses -- like Shang -- need help coping with their memories, but the system is overwhelmed, his mother said.

"There are so many children with nothing now, no parents," she said. "They really need good doctors. No one counted on so many of the other children, like mine, needing good help too."

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