Should disaster preparedness & prevention be taught in schools?


A classroom in the Shichigo Elementary School at Sendai City that is teaching disaster preparedness in the school

By Lagi Keresoma in Japan

SENDAI CITY, THURSDAY 26 OCTOBER 2017:  It is said that school is the best place to make an impression on the minds of the young and that educating them on issues of importance will have a lasting impact on their lives.

The global issue of climate change is high on the agenda of many island countries and one would have thought that Governments will support the efforts to introduce disaster preparedness and prevention programmes in the schools’ curriculum.

One such school in Japan is Shichigo Elementary School at Sendai City that is teaching disaster preparedness in the school.

The Sendai City Ministry of Education has yet to officially acknowledge incorporating the schools programme in the education curriculum.

The school was visited by journalists from the Caribbean and Pacific who are currently in Japan under the Association for Promotion of International Corporation (APIC) programme and focusing on disaster preparedness and mitigation. The group witnessed how the students from different grades responded to the disaster prevention programme.

Schichigo Elementary School’s Deputy Principal, Nagasuki said their programme teaches children to learn how to be safe and secure at times of disasters.

“We lend support to the children to have a positive attitude for their dreams for the future,” said Nagasuki.

The program is not officially recognized by the Sendai City Ministry of Education,  and Nagasuki is not certain if there is a possibility for the programme to be officially acknowledged, especially when the school is not in a position to propose the inclusion of the programme into the overall education curriculum.

From Grade One to Grade Six, they have a different focus on disaster preparedness and prevention program.

For instance Grade Four focus is on how farmers revived planting rice after the 2011 tsunami while Grade One focuses on risks at home during a disaster. Grade Five has the task of listening to survivors stories and try to express on the Ema card board messages relating to disaster prevention programmes.

Grade Four is allocated 20 hours a year to their program, while other programmes are given 30 hours.

The Ema card board messages relating to disaster prevention programmes

Nagasuki said the success of implementing such disaster programmes in school is evident in the reaction of students during an earthquake.

“The effect of education is when I see students in the school yard when an announcement is made and they gather at the centre of the yard away from falling objects, and not wait for someone to give advice,” said Nagasuki.

The designed content of the programme was based on a four year research done by the teaching staff of Schichigo.

What Schichigo hopes to achieve is to spread this system of education to other areas as this is a universal issue.

The same problem is also happening in Samoa, where although most Samoans are aware and reacting to natural disasters, the disaster programmes which have been introduced to schools, are not yet mandated into the education curriculum.

After the 2009 tsunami, a study was conducted to collect information about initiatives that would help educate the people about the dangers of natural disasters and what can be done to ensure safety during a disaster.

The study was conducted in 2012 and explored the weaknesses and strengths of various stakeholders such as the public education system, the media, the Women’s Committees and the Disaster Management Office (DMO) and new Community Disaster and Risk Management Programme.

From there on was a move to incorporate disaster preparedness and prevention in the schools but until now, it is not compulsory in the public schools.