Disaster Education | VOL. 11, ISSUE 64, January-February 2011

Safe in School

Children are at risk in a place we expect them to be safest - their schools. Thousands of children have lost their lives simply because of improper structures, hazard filled rooms or ignorance about how to protect themselves when a disaster strikes. It is fairly well understood that among all public amenities, schools and their students are the most vulnerable during any disaster. Typhoon Linda, 1997, in the Pacific destroyed over 2,200 schools; Columbia earthquake, 1999, damaged 74 per cent schools and the Gujarat earthquake, 2001, saw the collapse of 1800 schools. Kashmir earthquake of 2005 resulted in damage to or destruction of 8,000 schools and killed 17,000 children while the China earthquake of 2008 damaged 7,000 schools and killed 10,000 students. And these are just a handful of examples. World over there are institutions whose work extends beyond their routine requirements. Schools are perfect examples of this. Both legally and socially, education is viewed as a fundamental right of citizens. This basic premise ensures that schools occupy a special status within every community, positioning them as ‘safe havens’. In fact the school forms an ideal environment to cultivate the ‘culture of preparedness’ that is the foundation to reduce risk. Children carry information home to their families and communities, acting as risk reduction ambassadors. Also, in the aftermath of a disaster, education services in schools...

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