campaign is supported
by the ISDR system
thematic cluster on knowledge
and education, which is convened by:
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
Tel: +41 22 917 49 68
Tel: +41 22 917 27 89
Palais des Nations
CH 1211 Geneva 10,
Fax: +41 22 917 05 63
|What can be done?
All governments should commit to teacher training and curriculum
development to support large-scale teaching of disaster risk reduction.
Youth and children in many countries benefit from a wide variety
of different treatments of natural hazards, disaster preparedness
and prevention. These practices are highly varied in approach, intensity
and quality but it is probable that half the nations in the world
have some form of teaching about natural hazards and safety in some
of their school. In some cases, educational policy and supply of
teaching materials are decentralized to the sub-national level. The
challenge is to build on these practices, promote them in neighboring
schools and to encourage such teaching in nations where it is rare
All governments should review the safety of their schools
and develop a comprehensive policy toward school safety by taking
relevant hazards into account and using location of schools, maintenance
of buildings, design and construction methods as risk reduction tools.
Low cost, effective technology exists for strengthening and for building
new, safe schools at little additional cost. While earthquake hazard
to schools has received some attention, very little has focused on
other hazards. These include meteorological phenomena such as high
wind, storm surge, tornado, lightning strike, wild fire and flood.
Other geophysical phenomena also threaten schools: landslide, mudslides,
and avalanches, effects of volcanic eruptions and later lava flow,
UN & other international organizations
The UN and other international organizations can work with professionals,
educators, communities, children and youth to develop
a short list of “quick win” actions that can rapidly
increase the safety of schools and raise risk awareness among all
Quick wins” are actions in support of the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs) that are almost certain to bring big benefits quickly.
The Millennium Project’s list already includes ending user
fees in primary schools and expansion of school meal programmes in
support of UNESCO’s “Education for All” initiatives,
as well as actions to support other MDGs including free mass distribution
of malaria bed-nets and massive replenishment of soil nutrients.
The UN and other International Organizations can dynamize coalitions
and partnerships, facilitate the creation of knowledge networks including
South-South exchange, build capacity and guide others to existing
resources for training.
Donors can link these issues to all MDGs not just the education
Previously some thought of disaster risk reduction as a separate
agenda that would siphon resources away from the core mission of
development. Now the two are seen as one. Similarly, there are many
potential synergies among education, disaster reduction, and the
other MDGs. These, in turn, link to more integral strategies such
as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). If the school becomes
a centre from which emanates into community methods for participatory
risk assessment. A community mobilized in this way is more likely
to find local solutions to other MDG related development problems.
Donors should pick a dozen “fast track” countries that
have considerable numbers of schools in dangerous locations or otherwise
at risk and show the potential for rapid scaling up of school
protection. These countries should receive a large increase of assistance to
push such programmes forward.
In Highly Indebted Poor Countries that have many schools at risk
and do not show “fast track” potential, assistance
is also required, but perhaps could be combined with “debt for
safety” swapping in order to stretch donor country resources.
Included in the private sector are the many private schools
in the world. Where they are parts of national or even international networks
and associations – such as the Montessori schools, schools
accredited by the International Baccalaureate Organization, as well
faith based schools (e.g. Aga Khan schools, Catholic schools, Yeshivas)
their apex organizations can provide guidance and resources
so that their students also study safety and their schools are also
safe. In some cases, private schools
can twin with public sector schools,
helping them achieve standards of structural safety perhaps greater
than that mandated by national standards and enriching their curricula
and teaching resources (libraries, computer or internet access, etc).
Professional organizations involved with schools and building should
work with Governments to establish and enforce strict building codes
of conduct so that high standards are met in school construction.
A new culture of respect for building codes of conduct within professional
bodies involved with building schools should be established.
Educators and other professionals
Professionals are working hard
to enrich education with knowledge important to sustainable human
development, peace, justice, and safety. Nevertheless, there are
ways that their efforts can focus more clearly on natural
hazards without detracting from the work they do in other important
areas. Considering the loss of life, injury, and disruption of education
and normal child and adolescent development caused by natural hazards,
one would think that more professionals would seek out more direct
and rapid ways of communicating with parents, policy makers, community
leaders, and the children and youth themselves. Professionals such
as educators, researchers, engineers, and journalists might be the
first point of contact.
Communities and schools
Schools can start right now with the addition of some teaching about
safety and natural hazards. It is as easy as taking an hour a week
to lead a class out the door and to begin to look with a critical
eye at the geographical surroundings of the school building and compound.
Paper and pencil are all that is required for teachers and students
to begin to map these possible hazards. Even where there are large
classes, few resources, or the pressure to “teach to exams,” an
hour a week spent in this way can repay enormously in terms of lives
saved and the risk awareness of the future generation.
Parents who have lost children in school during disasters can join
together as a community based organization to do whatever they can
to prevent other parents from feeling the pain and grief they know
so well. In a similar way, just as one example, parents of children
who have suffered sudden heart attacks in the UK have formed a group
to work on this issue.
Parent Teacher Associations exist in various forms in many countries.
These can become the forum for discussions of what their children
and youth learn about safety and hazards and how schools can be protected.
|Source: Let Our Children Teach Us - A review of the Role of Education
and Knowledge in Disaster Risk Reduction,
Wisner B., ISDR 2006