Let our children teach us! A review of the role of education and knowledge in disaster risk reduction
This review covers the key activities relative to the Priority 3 of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters, broadly:
- Knowledge management.
- Risk awareness.
Among the many topics ranging from university research and training to primary school curricula and the media’s treatment of risk reduction, three subjects are most urgent and central:
- Teaching about hazards and risk reduction in schools.
- Schools as centres for community based disaster risk reduction.
- Physical protection of schools from natural hazards.
At all levels, pupils and students, from primary school to post-graduate study, can actively study the safety of their own schools and work with teachers and community members to find ways to protect them. They can also spread the methods of participatory vulnerability and capacity assessment and hazard mapping to the broader communities surrounding schools andother institutions of education and research.
However, there are constraints on such a strategy for rapidly accelerating public consciousness of risk and school protection:
- The Education Millennium Development Goal is not being met.
- Teachers receive low pay and are poorly supported.
- Schools themselves may be in dangerous locations, and unprotected from high wind, flash flooding, landslides, storm surges and earthquakes.
The Kashmir earthquake in 2005 killed 17,000 school children. There have also been many “near misses,” when earthquakes have destroyed schools when children were not inside.
There are other constraints on school based vulnerability and capacity assessment:
- Brain drain and brains down the drain [Unemployment/mal-employment, HIV/AIDS , violence, declining life expectancy and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)].
- Scientific dominance by most developed countries and transitional countries (heavily-indebted poor countries and Africa left behind).
- Information and communications technology imbalances (“digital divide”).
- Persistent natural science/social science split (the “two cultures”).
- Gap between research and action (“the last mile”).
School curricula today:
- Many focus on earth science.
- Many focus on preparedness and drills.
- Few integrate the two.
- Fewer develop their own local curriculum.
- Far fewer go outside and study the school’s hazards and the communities.
There are also gaps and opportunities in research and higher education:
- All levels of education and research can be better linked with each other.
- Available science and local knowledge can be applied.
- South-south networking can improve.
- Bottom up (students, teachers and communities) and top down (government, UN, international organizations, non-governmental organizations) can be better connected.
The review finds a great deal of good practice around the world and much sharing of experience; however, gaps and unrealized opportunities are also documented. The review ends with a section on strategy that should provide the basis for a concerted effort on the three priority areas identified in item number one above: promotion of more and better teaching about hazards and risk reduction, development of schools into models and centres of participatory risk reduction in their communities, and the protection of schools against multiple hazards.