school safety trainings in Assam

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A capacity building initiative on Disaster Risk Reduction and School Safety by Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), one of the most vibrant state authorities in India, is a path breaking, innovative and first of its kind in South Asia. This three day programme is designed to inform, sensitise and train school teachers across Assam state on disaster risk reduction (DRR) tools and mythology; thereby transferring knowledge to local communities.

Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) organised a Disaster Risk Reduction and School Safety programme for schools. This massive three year long exercise has covered 25 districts, 2,617 schools, 3,606 teachers and 1,928 children including 1,024 girls.

The problem…

Unsafe schools are reality. Assam by virtue of its geographical location is a multi hazard prone area that faces continuous threats from floods, earthquakes, landslides, storms, animal attacks and manmade hazards. Schools are densely populated places; many of them are located near forests with small children who represent one of the most vulnerable groups in society. School curriculum as well as government programmes hardly focus on school safety. Teachers, nourishing the next generation, were not aware of basic DRR terminologies and there is lack knowledge about conducting school risk assessments.

Damaged and old buildings, the unhygienic conditions of classrooms and toilets, narrow passages, untrained staff who cannot take command during emergencies, frequent epidemics like malaria, diarrhoea, dengue etc. exposes the vulnerability of schools and their inability to protect children. These vulnerabilities must not be seen only in terms of preventing catastrophic damage that may destroy buildings and cause injuries, but also in terms of preventing situations that may affect the services that provided by schools. Disasters can have several negative impacts on schools. With limited resources available from the state, it was almost impossible to identify hazard risks for such a large number of schools and at the same time sensitize and train teachers to take up mitigation activities.

Location…

Eighty six (86) three-day training on school safety including the School Disaster Management Plan and Mock Drill was conducted in 25 Districts of Assam. Addressing the Problem…

Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) with the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) joined hands to design a comprehensive three-day school safety training programme to address the issue.

The primary objectives of the programme were:

  • To access the initial knowledge base of the participants on disasters, its impacts on schools, their roles in achieving school safety;
  • To explain to participants about disaster situations and school safety concepts;
  • To make participants aware about hazards in India and Assam;
  • To share information about school safety initiatives, HFA, and global agencies working in the South Asia region, India and in Assam;
  • To make the participants understand basic disaster definitions and concepts;
  • To explain to participants about hazard assessments, vulnerabilities and capacities in their schools and carry out participatory school risk assessments;
  • School based disaster risk reduction and the steps to achieve DRR in Assam schools;
  • Role of various stakeholders at different levels for effective DRR in the schools of Assam;
  • To introduce about mock drills to the participants;
  • To explain how to conduct a mock Drills specifically in cases of earthquakes and floods.

Stakeholders involved…

Training aimed to train teachers. So all the participants are teachers from all school levels. These participants were sensitised on DRR and encouraged to assess their respective schools for hazard, risks and vulnerability assessments. They prepared and submitted the “School Disaster Management Plan” which includes risk assessments, mitigation measures, roles and responsibilities of school stakeholders, as well as response mechanisms to follow during emergencies. The participants are advised and directed to conduct regular mock drills in schools.

Stakeholder Matrix

Major Challenges and steps taken to overcome them:

  • Frequent disasters in school
    • Training schedule was planned with consultations from different stakeholders
    • Planning and coordination was a key to tackle this challenge.
  • Language barrier
    • Training Material was translated into Assamese language and trained resource persons from the region imparted training.

Result

Summary of the results is given below:

25 Districts were covered, 3606 teachers trained, 2469 plans submitted and 1928 children in participated in mock drill and fire safety drills search and rescue trainings were conducted towards disaster resilient schools in Assam.

Measuring the success

  • The most exciting part of the training was the diverse background of participants. Participants were from different tribal areas, religions, minority and other groups. This massive three-year long exercise covered 25 districts, 2617 Schools, 3606 teachers and 1928 children including 1024 girl child.
  • The participants of trainings submitted the School Disaster Management Plan and pledged to implement suitable measures to prevent disaster damage in Schools.
  • Trained teachers are able to conduct mock drill in schools.
  • One of the school awarded ‘Best School Disaster Management Plan’ by the National Disaster Management Authority.
  • Four Schools in Guwahati implemented school disaster management plan.
  • The trained teachers can be further trained as ‘master Trainers’ to disseminate similar trainings in other regions and schools and spread the message of disaster preparedness to the poorest and excluded communities.

Relevance to HFA

The School Safety Training program has successfully contributed to India’s HFA progress by contributing to strategic goals such as:

  • Strengthening institutional capacity (schools), mechanisms and capacities of teachers;
  • Showcasing systematic risk reduction approaches to identify underlying risk factors and implementation of emergency preparedness, response and recovery programmes;
  • Integration of school disaster management plans with school development plans – an example of DRR with development;
  • Continuing the lessons learnt from India’s National School Safety Program and reaching out to all communities in the regions.

Potential for replication:

Started in 2012, the initiative on school safety continued for the third year in Assam. This programme has a very high potential for replication in other states of India as well as in South Asia as its content and knowledge about basic DRR terminologies, preparation of school specific disaster management plans and demonstrations of mock drills can be transferred. Similar programmes at national or sub-national level will influence communities to take up local level actions and will be highly beneficial to risk assessments at micro level.

(Contributed by: Assam State Disaster Management Authority, Government of Assam, E-mail: asdmaghy@gmail.com )