Safe schools save lives

12 OCTOBER 2017

A Plan International safe schools project in Rangpur, Bangladesh shows how the classroom can be an effective place to begin strengthening resilience across the whole community. On International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, read about the positive impact this project has had on this disaster-prone region.

Shahanaj has learned what to do during different disasters through the safe schools project.
“This year I was able to save my education materials from the flood. I put my books and exercise notes in a safe place (high place) in my home. Like me, no students in my community lost their education materials.”

“We heard that numbers of children died and were injured in other sub-districts by recent severe floods but no such case was reported in our community. We learnt from our safe school project how to swim and what to do during a flood,” said Shakila.

Flooding in Bangladesh has affected over a third of the country’s population and left many children out of school. In Lalmonirhat District, a Plan International safe schools project has prevented displacement of children and community due to floods through specific initiatives. 

Working with schoolchildren, teachers, parents, and local government in this region, the project builds the resilience of the education system, the school and ultimately the children. It does this through teaching them what to do before, during and after disasters and actively involving them in decisions and actions.

Strengthening resilience in schools

This is Shahanaj, one of the students from a government primary school that has implemented safe school measures. Shahanaj and her classmates learned what to do during different disasters through evacuation drills, drama shows, in lessons and through peer to peer learning.

Shahanaj was able to transfer what she learned in school to her parents, giving her entire family the knowledge and skills to prepare for and respond to the flood.

The project supported schools to conduct inclusive, comprehensive risk assessments and develop school safety plans that identify actions to reduce the risks identified. Importantly, the process included all school stakeholders, including school management committee members, teachers, students, parents, Union Parishad representatives and other community members.

This is vital in ensuring that projects go beyond the school boundary, and the skills and knowledge gained during risk assessment and planning can be utilised by parents and community members to also identify risks in their houses and other community areas.

Prioritising risk areas

The schools that were targeted for school safety are located in a low lying river basin and usually, each year schools are inundated by 5 to 6 foot of water, with most closing their school for 15 to 30 days as a result.

Following the risk assessments and action plan, the school authorities undertook structural and non-structural activities such as building repairs, raising the school ground, and regular evacuation drills. The raised school grounds saved the schools from inundation this year enabling children to resume education after only 1 week.  

Sabina has been helping implement disaster preparedness. “This is a new experience for me that my school is not affected by flood and not closed for a long time.”

“This is a new experience for me that my school is not affected by the flood and not closed for a long time. We raised the school ground. We regularly discuss our school safety issues and disaster preparedness and that’s why this year we were not affected by the flood,” said Sabina.

Disaster management committees

The establishment of school disaster management committees has been extremely successful in providing capacity building training in how to continue education after a disaster.

“I am happy this year that our students have not missed their classes for a long time,” said Provat Roy, Assistant Teacher at a school in the Char river basin area. “The school disaster management committee played a role in shifting the school very quickly to an alternative place that we identified before in the contingency plan.”

The committees also strengthen child protection in emergencies – helping to reduce the additional risks girls face during and after disasters, perform basic first aid, psychosocial care and basic search and rescue.

Boats for safe crossings

In addition, 8 boats with safety materials have been given to 10 schools for safer access across the river nearby. Recent floods affected the whole community of Sindurna Union and people had no other means of crossing. Two hundred people of the Uttar Holdibari community moved to a safe place with their assets using the boats the Plan International project provided. 

“We are very pleased that the project is not only ensuring safe and secure learning environment of school students but also supporting community people.” said Jahidul Islam, member of the disaster management committee.

Safety begins at school

At Plan International, we believe that Home Safe Home can begin at school. Schools are an extremely effective place to build the resilience of children and thus community through strengthening inquisitive thinking, problem analysis and creativity, improving access to information, providing specific knowledge on disasters and practising for disaster preparedness and response.

Not only does school safety support children in returning quickly to education it also empowers them to be active members of the community, involved in decision making and committees, improves their independent thinking and builds their resilience to different shocks and stresses and the resilience of their friends and families.

Become a safe schools leader

No child should be forced to leave school because of lack of advance planning and awareness. We, therefore, call on the Government of Bangladesh, and all governments to sign up to the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools led by UNISDR.* The initiative aims to create a network of countries committed to school safety for improved awareness, implementation of the Comprehensive School Safety Framework, sharing of information and technical support.

At Plan International, we encourage governments to put children first and invest in school safety and education, giving all children the opportunity to become the next doctor, leader, or teacher. We are dedicated to providing technical support to those countries that commit to school safety to help realise the dreams of children everywhere.

*Plan International is not responsible for the content of external sites. 

Emergencies, Education in emergencies