Promoting disaster risk reduction, one school at a time

Project name: Promoting and strengthening school safety in Nepal through operationalising the Comprehensive School Safety Framework (CSSF)

Funded by: European Commission-Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DGECHO)

Goal: Children, communities and the government education and disaster management system in Nepal are more resilient to the impacts of disasters

Project duration: March 2015-December 2016

Nepal is highly vulnerable to a range of different disasters including earthquakes, landslides, floods and fires. Whilst there has been significant investment in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) throughout the country in recent years, the education sector still struggles to fully incorporate preparedness and DRR throughout its policies and programmes as well as make connections to Disaster Management (DM) authorities.

The Child Centred Disaster Risk Reduction (CCDRR) Consortium consists of World Vision International Nepal, Save the Children and Plan International along with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN HABITAT) as strategic partners. The consortium, in general has intervened at the national, sub-national and school and community level and worked  through the existing government system to increase the resilience of children, communities as well as the government education and disaster management systems in Nepal to be better prepared for and able to respond to natural hazards. World Vision International Nepal, together with the consortium partners has ensured the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) reflects the three pillars of the Comprehensive School Safety Framework (CSSF) and a DRR package is included in the Teacher Professional Development (TPD) Programme.

As a result, 799 schools in Doti and Kailali have received DRR guidelines and training packages which the consortium helped to develop. World Vision has supported the development of a national education sector contingency plan, and actively engaged District Education Offices as well as trained district level trainers in the DRR package.

At the community level, in all 22 target schools of Doti and Kailali districts, two teachers and one head teacher plus School Management Committee (SMC) members have been trained on Disaster Risk Management. Children and young people have received lessons on DRR and are leading activities in their schools and communities. To date, World Vision has taken a system strengthening approach of working with and through the education authorities to ensure sustainability, cost-­effectiveness,  replication  and scaling up. The national level activities have focused on policy strengthening, system integration, harmonising tools and building relationships with stakeholders. High levels of advocacy and communication (such as TV talk shows, seminars, media articles, etc) have also supported these activities. The consortium has also built strong working relationships with the education authorities, especially the DRR Unit, the National Centre for Educational Development (NCED) and the Curriculum Development Centre (CDC). Consortium also established a steering committee of both government and civil society and UN agencies to increase support for DRR within the education authorities and other actors.

As the school bell rings out in the hands of Padam Bisht, students of Bharatoli Secondary School in Doti kneel down, with their heads lying flat on the ground and their hands placed behind their heads. “You need to ensure that your head is safe from any injury at the time of a disaster,” says Padam to the students. The ringing stops and Padam motions the children to move to a safe place, which in this case is the playground located beside the school building. Responding to his gesture, the students hasten towards the playground and huddle together there. This is how a typical ‘mock-drill’ looks like, where the school bell resembles an warning system and students act out the ‘duck, cover and hold’ method popularly followed in the event of an earthquake, a disaster that is all too familiar to Nepal following the massive earthquake last year.

A year ago, after the Comprehensive Child-Centred Disaster Risk Reduction (CCDRR) project was introduced in the school, this is just one of the practices that has been introduced. Padam shares, “This is a place that lacks in awareness and considering the fact that there are a lot of possibilities of disasters, both man-made and natural, it was essential that people’s awareness be raised. Having worked in the school for almost four years, I care about the children and programmes such as these, help ensure that there’s child-friendly environment not just at educational institutions but outside of it.” As a matter of fact, following the migration of residents to the plains and farmland reverting to forest, the area is prone to attacks by wild animal such as boars, and bears. The area is also prone to epidemics, landslides, and snowstorms, but people are almost oblivious to the risks of such hazards and their prevention.

The approach of the programme was to build capacity in disaster management and raise awareness in educational institutions about unsafe building practices that can put children at risk. First,  training was provided to teachers in which a disaster management plan was created after potential disasters were mapped. The plan discussed safety measures to be taken should a a disaster take place. Children travelling a long distance are encouraged to travel in groups; initiations have been taken by students to reduce the vulnerability of the school surrounding, for instance clearing the roads around of sharp-edged stones to prevent injuries and removing small pieces of glass from the playground. The doors and windows of the classrooms were also sealed with locally available wood as it tends to get very windy during March and April and hinders the students’ learning.

In mid-2016, two teachers and seven students from the school also received the opportunity to take part in a first-aid training that ran for two days. “We had very limited knowledge about first-aid, most of it being theoretical, which is why being a part of the training gave us a chance to take the practical road. I now know what to do immediately after a person faints or has a snake bite or how to ensure the safety of an injured person until he or she makes it safely to a medical territory. I think first-aid is essential for everyone because not always is there a medical facility nearby and first-aid is the only alternative,” says Mohan (16). He says that he has been able to teach other friends of his and even other members in his community about safe first-aid practices.

The programme has helped increase awareness in the community of the importance of first-aid training. Parents who have taken part in the training have gained more idea and show more concern for the safety of their children at home, and in and out of school. Many parents have started placing farming equipment such as sickles or hoes in safe locations instead of hanging them on wall hooks that could increase the risk of injury in the event of an earthquake.  

With the financial support of the European Commission, for the past 11 months World Vision has been promoting Disaster Risk Reduction in ten schools of Doti. The result has been a significant improvement in the awareness level of the schools and surrounding communities.