Following a school assembly, all students entered their classrooms. However, a few minutes later they calmly filed out into the open space at the front of the school and a teacher counted them.
This was, in fact, an earthquake drill being carried out at a primary school in Baglung, a hilly district in west Nepal. In addition the school has started disaster preparedness exercises as extra-curricular activities and has a designated focal point to lead them.
Leela Khadka is a teacher and the disasters focal point at the school. She says: "I don't need extra time and effort for this. It is now a regular part of my teaching at school and we do drills as an extra-curricular activity.”
To help children learn more about disasters, she tells stories, asks questions and runs quizzes.
Preparing schools for disasters
The message about being well prepared for disasters has spread to the community and local leaders are taking initiative to support the children. For instance, in Kathekhola, the community built a bridge to provide children with easy access to school. Similarly, a secondary school received 300,000 rupees (€2,400) from the local government to construct a compound wall to make the school safe.
I feel I can contribute to my community, thanks for trusting us girls
These interventions became only possible with the support of Plan International Nepal and partner organisation Nepal Ganja Development Foundation (NGDF) which works with 40 schools to increase the resilience of children and communities so they are better prepared for and able to respond to natural hazards.
As of May, 2018, about 500 teachers, 4,036 students and 2,000 parents have engaged in various activities and learned about managing disaster risks at their schools and homes.
As a part of the project, regular drills are conducted in each of the schools. In addition, teachers and management committee members are trained on disaster risk management and are supported to make their schools free from disaster risks.
Increasing children’s knowledge
Surya Prasad Kandel, Programme Coordinator at NGDF has visited all 40 schools this year and says: "Students have learned the safety message in case a disaster hits. They are more aware than us adults."
Swastika, a 10th grade student says: "I feel I can contribute to my community, thanks for trusting us girls and providing training."
As a result of the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal about 10,000 schools were destroyed and about 1 million children's education was affected. The reconstruction of school is ongoing, however many schools are still unsafe due to their traditional design and students are unaware about the risks. Therefore, the project is providing students, teachers and schools with the facilities and knowledge to be resilient to future disasters.
About the project:
The ECHO HIP (Humanitarian Implementation Plan) is a consortium project being implemented in 40 schools in Baglung district by Plan International Nepal. It will support about 4,000 people including girls, boys, their parents and teachers. The project will end in October 2018.