Ensuring school safety is critical to protect children from disasters

Source(s): Asia Pacific Coalition for School Safety

The Asia-Pacific region is the most disaster-prone in the world, and 35.6 million children are at risk of death and injury every year in this region. Children bear the brunt of recurring and intensifying disasters in the Asia-Pacific region and are at a disproportionately higher risk of death and injury, compared to adults.

Whilst “Home Safe Home” is the slogan for International Day for Disaster Reduction 2017 and a safe home and community is indeed crucial for children, Asia Pacific Coalition on School Safety (APCSS) also prioritizes safe schools where children are protected from death and injury, and can have access to an education no matter what.

Schools are where children spend a significant percentage of their time. When schools are damaged or destroyed, educational investments are being lost and children’s rights to safety, survival and access to a quality basic education are denied. Many children fail to achieve their educational goals and drop out of schooling permanently. This makes it more likely that they will face poverty, violence, and exploitation over the course of their lifetime.

The Comprehensive School Safety (CSS) Framework has become an important guidance for governments to address safer school facilities, disaster management in schools, and risk reduction and resilience education. Governments of the Asia-Pacific region have made great strides over the past decade in creating policies that keep schools safer. These efforts need to be continued. Policy gaps need to be filled. Where policy exists, efforts need to turn to funding, training, and integration into everyday practice. Five countries in Southeast Asia, five in the Pacific, three in Central Asia, two in East Asia, and one in South Asia have signed up to the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools. We encourage all other national governments do to this same, and become champion countries that are committed to taking consistent actions to make all schools safe for children.

Governments can continue to improve implementing school safety policies by:

  1. Making sure education and disaster management policies are integrated;
  2. Addressing all Comprehensive School Safety Framework targets and indicators;
  3. Including teachers and students in the process; 
  4. Investing in financial, technical, and human resources to make this happen.

From this strong base, Comprehensive School Safety policies will not only protect students and teachers and ensure that children have a continuous education, but will also support a culture of safety that spreads from school to the home and the community, and from community to nation. The reward will be a generation of children growing up without fear of missing-out on education, no matter who they are or where they are from.

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