Thousands of students in ASEAN nations to get disaster safe schools

More than 250,000 children in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, who live in disaster prone areas, will be better protected from natural disasters thanks to an ASEAN Safe School Initiative (ASSI). The initiative was discussed by government leaders from eight nations and the ASEAN Secretariat in a conference held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from 16-17 December 2015.

“In the last five years, some 14,500 schools among 400,000 in the ASEAN region were damaged during natural disasters. Making these schools safer will protect millions of children who are otherwise vulnerable when an emergency happens,” said Meimei Leung, World Vision’s Humanitarian Emergency Affairs Director in East Asia.

This two-day regional conference aims to gather major stakeholders on school safety in the ASEAN region to discuss, exchange knowledge, and share learnings by showcasing good practices, strategies, tools and resources on school safety. At the same time, the event which was happening in parallel with the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management also saw the launch of the ASEAN Common Framework for Comprehensive School Safety as a strategy for school safety implementation in the region.

"In the last five years, some 14,500 schools among 400,000 in the ASEAN region were damaged during natural disasters. Making these schools safer will protect millions of children."

Since 2013, World Vision in some Southeast Asia countries has actively contributed to the ASSI by modeling safe schools where children learn how to keep them safe from natural disasters, with trainings for teachers to develop their teaching skills in the field of disasters.

World Vision has also developed education materials with contents focusing on weather, climate, climate change and natural disasters. Especially, World Vision has technically and financially supported the ASSI to conduct a “National Guidelines for Construction of Safe schools and Learning Centers in Myanmar” that is being finalized by April 2016.

In Vietnam, World Vision has been involved in the ASSI by implementing a range of activities such as training for teachers and education staff, raising awareness and building capacity for children on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. These activities have been applied in nearly 250 schools in 29 World Vision Vietnam – funded areas so far.

“In order to make disaster safe schools a reality, preparing children and teachers against disasters and other risks should be made compulsory in all school. That needs a joint effort and governments across ASEAN must work collectively to make this a priority,” said World Vision Vietnam’s National Coordinator of Humanitarian Emergency Affair Le Van Duong.

The two-phase Initiative (2013 – 2016) has been implemented by the ASSI consortium comprised of World Vision and other INGOs, with support from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).

In order to reach the 250,000 children, ASSI expects to provide direct support to around 1,600 schools in Southeast Asia.  In addition, more than 1 million people across ASEAN will be reached through public awareness raising and provision of information, education and communication materials.