Written by: Dorpaima Lumban Gaol, the Global Schools team
Children or students are the most vulnerable group subject to disaster. According to data by the Society for Research in Child Development, approximately 175 million children globally are expected to be affected by natural disasters every year. The effect of the disaster on children can be a detriment to their physical health, mental health, and access to learning opportunities.
This pandemic reveals how children are struggling to deal with a current disaster. COVID-19 is categorized as a non-natural disaster, however, the impact on the education sector is catastrophic. The latest report by the World Bank reported that school closures during the pandemic risk pushing 72 million primary school students into learning poverty. Learning poverty signifies that these students are potentially unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10.
Children practicing preparedness drills. Photo: Courtesy Train 4 Safety Press
The data above demonstrates how disasters (natural or non-natural) can affect children’s lives. We need to spotlight and advocate for the importance of including Disaster Risk Reduction in education systems as a preventive measure to avoid future risks like we are presently facing due to COVID-19. Preventive measures can start by promoting disaster risk reduction in schools. Through Disaster Risk Reduction education every child or student learns to protect themselves in the case of a natural disaster and gains survival skills in disaster-related circumstances. Therefore, what can schools do to build student resilience?
1. Know the risk: Find out in advance what types of disasters have the potential to occur in your environment. In particular, natural disasters. It is important to prioritize what kind of preventive steps you need to teach your students.
2. Plan for safety and educational continuity: Educators have opportunities to design learning concepts on this subject. You can use resources from the Global Schools Program regarding climate change that you can modify according to the needs of your class. Educate students on practical concepts of natural disasters at least twice a week, so that it becomes knowledge that affects their habits. Inform students what happens in the case of a natural disaster, and ask your school leadership if they have a plan for ensuring educational continuity.
3. Evaluate your plan: Occasionally, ask your students a question spontaneously to check their understanding and ensure their ability to survive a disaster situation. This can become an evaluation for you to find out whether your students are resilient in facing disasters or you need to provide other skills to complement them.
4. Share and Influence others: You can share your success stories with other educators in building resilient students. This is extremely important to encourage more people to take up Disaster Risk Reduction Education. Share your success story by joining the Global Schools educator’s facebook group.
Building children or students who are resilient to natural and non-natural disasters is one of the most effective preventive measures. Global Schools seeks to build a world where there are no more children who suffer and lose their rights to education due to the impact of disasters.
We cannot avoid disasters, but we can prevent their impacts, and incorporate educational topics that can save children's lives.