“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.” – Socrates
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) education is crucial for all communities living in disaster prone areas. The Asia Pacific Region is the most disaster prone region in the world, facing numerous hazards, from severe flooding to storms to volcanic eruptions to tsunamis and earthquakes. In Indonesia, where Project Child operates, 231 million people, or 91% of the population are exposed to natural hazards. According to Verisk Maplecroft, a UK-based Risk Management company, this places Indonesia third in the world for the number of people at risk of natural disasters, after India (1) and China (2).
While education is crucial to reduce the risks faced by communities, approaches to disaster management have traditionally focused on top down and technology driven strategies. This trend is, however, changing. Increasing numbers of NGO’s, international organizations and national governments are acknowledging, advocating for, and actively engaging in the important work of disaster mitigation education. High profile NGO’s and international organizations undertaking such work include Save the Children, UNICEF, UNISDR, and World Vision. Project Child has also received tremendous support from the communities where we operate and we are continuing to expand our programs and schools to reach new communities.
Education can have a catalytic effect to strengthen communities and reduce vulnerability. This was acknowledged, by governments throughout world, in the Sendai Framework, which calls for “a culture of prevention and education on disaster risk.” Awareness is one component of this education, however, disaster risk reduction is at its most effective and valuable when it empowers individuals and communities to become important actors in disaster reduction strategies. Education is the key to this empowerment.
Adopted in 2010, The Asia Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) Declaration recognized “the need to protect women, children and other vulnerable groups from the disproportionate impacts of disaster and to empower them to promote resiliency within their communities and workplaces.” It also called for the promotion of child and people-centered education to strengthen community preparedness and reduce vulnerability to risk.
Children are the most vulnerable to consequences and effects of disasters. According to UNICEF, 50-60% of the 102 million people directly affected by natural disasters in 2014 were children, while Save the Children estimates that around 200 million children per year, in the Asia Pacific region alone, will have their lives severely disrupted by various disasters.
The effects of natural disasters and hazards felt most acutely by children include food shortages, lack of clean water, loss of shelter and the death of family members. These factors increase the vulnerability of children to physical injury, disease, poverty, disruption of education, separation from families, psychological trauma and puts them in increased risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
However, Children are not just the most vulnerable to natural hazards, they are, as the next generation of community leaders, the most crucial actors for ensuring long term, and sustainable, cultures of resilience. By equipping children with confidence, skills and capacity, DRR education can help empower children to become thoughtful and active leaders, prepared and able, to advocate for their community’s disaster mitigation needs, and to manage and strengthen their community to become resilient to the threats, and consequences of natural disasters.
Project Child is dedicated to this important work. We currently operate two variations of schools designed to engage with specific issues facing local communities. So far, we have developed Sekolah Pantai, Beach School, located in Pacitan on Java’s Central South Coast and Sekolah Sungai, River School, in Yogyakarta riverside communities. Our curriculums are developed in consultation with these communities and we are forever grateful and motivated by the level of engagement and warm reception we have received. We are proud of our achievements thus far and have continued to expand our programs. We will open our third Sekolah Sungai in Yogyakarta in the coming weeks.
Shane Preuss – Media Intern at Project Child Indonesia