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Developing school-safety culture

Apr 26, 2012

Teachers and students from districts in the bordering areas of Kathmandu valley in Nepal, are receiving knowledge and skills in first aid and rescue through a Disaster Preparedness for School Safety (DPSS) programme to ensure disaster-preparedness.

Sita Tamang is a teacher at Bhairum School, at a nearly two kilometres drive from the headquarters of Nuwakot district. In her 18 years as a teacher, she has never come across any initiative that ensures disaster preparedness. For her, the new initiative Disaster Preparedness for School Safety (DPSS) programme was an important step in the right direction.

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Through this programme, teachers and students have received knowledge and skills regarding vulnerability and capacity assessment, first aid and light search and rescue. Storms, Floods, landslides, fire threaten lives of people in Nuwakot and Rasuwa, as in many mountainous areas of Nepal. In addition, these districts are highly prone to earthquakes. 

Last September, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck in the eastern region of Nepal, leaving dozens of districts affected. At least 50 people were injured while running away from their houses though no lives were lost directly. “It would have been a great disaster if it happened during school time, and any damage to the school buildings would have been an unanticipated casualty”, said Surya Acharya (Er.), Programme Manager at NSET-N. “So promotion of the culture of safety at all schools is a must.”

Phaising Tamang studies at Sita’s school in the eight grade and is a member of the Junior Red Cross Circle. He has good knowledge on how to behave during and after earthquake now. In other instances, an interaction about the knowledge of school safety with students of the ninth grade at Syaprubesi, Rasuwa found most ignorant about such disaster situations.

Following a teachers’ training workshop at Rasuwa, participants of all 19 schools committed to first carry out vulnerability and capacity assessment at schools, and then to mobilize students and teachers to prepare for disaster-response plan at schools and households. “This project brings about changes in school and the community as the children are the best ambassadors” Tirtha Joshi, Coordinator of DPSS programme.

The project aims at students and teachers who directly carry the message of school-safety culture in the community. Community volunteers strive to make school-safety culture the norm in this area. The project in many ways, will also help volunteers by equipping them with basic knowledge and skills like light search and rescue, and first aid.

Reaching about 8,400 people in the first phase; by the end of the program nearly 40,000 people (220 schools and neighbouring communities) will have benefited through disaster management initiatives by 2014. The program trained 684 first aid workers, 86 light search/rescue workers and 86 practitioners for school safety last year. Likewise, over 2,000 persons have received preparedness trainings.

The bordering areas of Kathmandu valley are the most earthquake-prone areas in Nepal. This collaboration between Partnership of Nepal Red Cross Society, Nepal Society for Earthquake Technology, and the American Red Cross would work excellently by ensuring volunteer and social mobilisation, structural technology enhancement, and financial support.

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