Education vs. Disasters
Threatened by rising sea levels, beach erosion, storms, and cyclones and tsunamis, Maldives is one of the lowest-lying archipelagos in the world. Over 120,000 children (30% of the population) are considered to be at risk in the event of natural disasters.
Schooling in Maldives was disrupted for 18 months following the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, a catastrophe which underlined the need for disaster preparedness in schools and communities.
Since the tsunami, Maldives authorities have piloted disaster risk reduction (DRR) in the school curriculum. DRR materials have been produced within the framework of education for sustainable development. Teachers, parents and community leaders have participated in training sessions.
Disasters and disaster risks are on the rise. Over 250 million people a year have been affected in the last decade. A massive 95% of disaster deaths occur in developing countries. Lessening the impact of such disasters can be achieved via education policies and programmes in support of disaster preparedness. These build the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to prepare for disasters and cope with their aftermath, as well as helping learners and the community to return to a normal life. Including DRR in school curricula thus makes for a safer population and for more resilient disaster-prone communities.
A new report by UNESCO and UNICEF maps 30 countries that have included elements of disaster risk reduction into their education systems and curricula. The report captures national experiences whilst noting key challenges in countries where DRR is less prioritized or where specific teacher training does not exist.
The report identifies good practices, noting issues addressed or still lacking, and offers a review of learning outcomes. It addresses the development of DRR-related curricula at the institutional level, but also brings individuals into focus by evaluating pedagogy and student assessment, as well as professional development and guidance for teachers.