Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean
Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Partners in action / Education
School Networks Manage Risks in Ancash, Peru
In this context, Soluciones Prácticas—ITDG [Practical Solutions], with the financial support of the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FUNDESCO) from Spain, Save the Children from Sweden, and DIPECHO of the European Union, began a project in 2004 which coordinates its activities with a number of schools in Ancash. The work done is based upon the assumption that schools can and should play a pivotal role in building a culture of prevention in communities, since they represent the State institution with the greatest presence at the local level, and due to their inherent function: education.
Based on this assumption, our institution has developed an emergency preparedness training process intended for students and teachers, and accompanied by a process aimed at promoting the creation of networks.
A number of training workshops were held with teachers. They were primarily provided with information on how to use methodological and technical tools for including risk management topics in learning units. At the same time, School Civil Defense Committees were established. It is worth highlighting the fact that a “Teachers Network for Disaster Prevention” was also created. This is a group of teachers that has been working under an overall intervention plan to motivate students to get involved in the field of disaster risk management, by analyzing the existing conditions of vulnerability in their schools and identifying safe areas.
Student brigades were also created. These represent the basic support structure for the “Network of Students on Alert” through which a variety of activities have been carried out in schools, including risk management courses and workshops, drawing contests, comic strips, and drills. In order to work with the community at large, marches and street performances were also held to raise awareness. Theater performances have been based on the earthquake of 1970 that devastated the city of Yungay. All these activities are aimed at reinforcing knowledge on and raising awareness of disasters among the population, as well as about the current situation in terms of a weak culture of prevention, about what the population should do in case of an emergency, and about the impact of triggering events. At the same time, school meetings have been held to exchange experiences and get the word out about these activities through the media. The “Communicators in Action Network” have played a central role in the process of disseminating information. This network took the lead in creating and broadcasting radio programs aimed at raising awareness among the population and reaching out to more rural communities. This provided spaces for reflection and debate where the students themselves contributed to increasing the understanding of risk situations in the region. One of the young participants said: “…Jointly with the students of my school and other schools, we learned to recognize vulnerability and evacuation areas, and we developed our emergency plans and risk maps for the schools… the main thing I take from the experience is that I now recognize my capacities and I use them while working with the community…”1
Subsequently, the experience with teachers and students provided us with input for proposing an advocacy process aimed at changing national and regional educational policies to include a risk management focus. Along these lines, ITDG, jointly with the Ministry of Education and the National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI), has contributed to the creation of a curriculum proposal titled “Learning to Prevent” and to its implementation through institutional plans in rural schools in Peru. Currently, “Learning to Prevent” is the basis for including risk management content in the curriculum planning of every school in the country, in order to reduce the vulnerability of children. As a complement, a school evaluation and monitoring guide was developed in a participatory fashion. The guide includes a tool for measuring the progress made in incorporating risk management into educational policies.
These experiences have been strengthened by similar activities and initiatives developed by local actors. Many of those who participated formally in our activities (and are now former students who live far away from their schools) continue working on efforts to raise awareness through the media. They are collaborating with radio stations and local television programs through which they share interviews with children and “student mayors”2 about their experiences in risk reduction. These youth leaders have established the “Union of Youth on Alert”, involving students, academic centers, universities, and higher education institutions from all over the region. The “Union” carries out training activities for students in rural and urban schools and for members of social organizations such as the “Glass of Milk Committees.” They have contributed to holding meetings to exchange experiences between “school municipalities”3 and Civil Defense Committees and to publicizing these activities through the local media. These activities have given the group a great deal of strength and leadership, so much so that they are currently making their presence felt in the region through the incorporation of risk management projects with a focus on a number of rights, within the process of drawing up the Participatory Budget of the region.
In the words of one of these young participants, “…the great strength of the school is its students. As young people, we have to take advantage of our youth and make every effort to feel that we are important and that we have the same abilities as the adults. We have to work together closely to change things and have cleaner cities, safer cities, cities for life….” 4
Based on the experiences we have gained, we offer the following final reflections: