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Preparing schools and students for disasters

In rural Bangladesh, students and teachers are utilising their new solar panels and acquiring skills and knowledge to prepare for cyclones and other natural disasters

Girls with their school work showing the effects of climate change
Girls in Bangladesh with their school work showing the effects of climate change

“Our school has separate toilets for boys and girls, but using the toilet was still a hassle for us. We had to collect water from the well and bring it to the toilet as we have no electricity in our village. The lack of running water meant the toilets were dirty. Now, things have changed,”says Shirin, a grade five student from a primary school in Barguna District in Bangladesh. 

Our school has separate toilets for boys and girls, but using the toilet was still a hassle for us.

To provide running water in the toilets and piped drinking water from the well, Plan International Bangladesh installed a solar panel in the school. This initiative was part of the school’s disaster preparedness programme: with a functioning toilet and available drinking water, the school can act as a safe shelter in the case of a future emergency.

During a disaster, electricity connections are often broken and fire-induced light sources are unsafe. In these cases, solar panels can provide uninterrupted electricity support, allowing people taking shelter in the school grounds to access running water.

For Shirin and the 200 other students at the primary school, the solar panel has also changed their day-to-day live: they now have access to drinking water and their toilets are clean. 

Students now have safe, clean drinking water in every floor of their school
Students now have safe, clean drinking water in every floor of their school

In addition to the installation of solar panels, Shirin and her friends are also aware of the impacts of climate change and keep track of weather changes. At school, they have meteorology equipment that measures rainfall and temperature variations. Coupled with disaster preparedness training, the children have also learned about climate change mitigation and adaptation. 

Siddiqur Rahman, Headmaster of the school, is happy that Plan International is raising awareness among children on the risks associated with disaster. Referring to Tropical Cyclone Komen in 2015 – which led to hundreds of deaths and destroyed thousands of homes in Bangladesh and other countries in Asia – he explains how the children have put their disaster preparedness training to good use: 

“I received an alert for the cyclone [Komen] in the night. At dawn, I went and opened the school for people seeking shelter. At the same time, I heard my students announcing a cyclone alert through their microphones. As their teacher, I felt really proud. If only we had this type of awareness during cyclone Sidr – a 2007 storm that is estimated to have caused nearly 10,000 casualties in Bangladesh – the havoc could have been reduced,” says Siddiqur.  

I heard my students announcing a cyclone alert through their microphones. As their teacher, I felt really proud. 

 Through Plan International’s support, students and teachers alike are now becoming more prepared to face disasters. Through awareness, education and sharing vital information, children and their teachers can play a key role in reducing the damaged caused by cyclones in their community every year.  

Learn more about Plan International's disaster preparedness work in Bangladesh.