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Program in place to educate youth on natural disasters

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, March 29, 2012) – Save the Children is supporting the Ministry of Education to investigate how Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) can be integrated into school education programs. A pilot project will work with ten schools on Efate to test an approach for including disaster education in classroom activities along with different subjects in primary schools.

The first stage in the project will carry out a needs assessment and baseline study to get feedback directly from students and teachers on how disaster education is being taught in schools and what opportunities there are to increase knowledge and safety for students learning about natural and human made hazards and disasters.

Teachers and students from Tanaliu, Matarisu, Takara, Ekipe, Eton, Ekonac - Epau, Manua, Malatia, Eratap and the recently opened primary school in Pango have been participating in focus group discussions sharing their ideas about how to improve the way disaster education is taught in schools. It is hoped this information will identify gaps and opportunities to develop strategies and approaches that can be included in the new National Curriculum that is currently being developed.

A key element of the project is children’s participation in identifying disaster education approaches that meet their needs. Teachers are also having a direct input into how to develop classroom and learning materials specifically for how they teach other subjects in the classroom in their schools.

The Deputy Provincial Education Officer for Shefa, Mr. John Kaltau, has been helping with the focus group discussions involving students, teachers and Principals visiting schools as part of a team including Save the Children staff and an international consultant with expertise in disaster education in schools.

Students and teachers have indicated strong support for developing disaster education activities and materials for different subjects in the classroom with key learning outcomes needed around how to identify different types of hazards, traditional knowledge about natural warning signs as well as knowing what to do before, during and after a disaster situation has occurred.

One teacher commenting that "teaching disaster education in schools is more than just one subject it something we must do as it is a must for life in Vanuatu."

The next stage in the project will use the ideas and inputs of teachers and students as well as other government departments and non-government organizations to develop classroom materials that can be used to help improve the way disaster education is taught in schools through the formal education sector.

Training and professional development will be provided to teachers from the pilot schools in how to use the disaster education materials and the teachers will then be able to test the use of these in the classroom directly with students.

An evaluation of the project will be carried out to see if the pilot is successful and identify if the approach can be rolled out to schools nationally as part of the Ministry of Education’s Education in Emergencies program.

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