Lessons on mainstreaming disaster risk reduction in the education sector from the Philippines

Source(s): Municipality of Carigara

By Aaron Opdyke and Daryl Daniel Bodo

In July of this year, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck inland municipalities in the province of Leyte, located in the central Philippines. The quake resulted in 4 deaths, more than 100 injuries, and at least ₱271 million of damage ($5.3 million USD). While disasters of this magnitude rarely make international media headlines or research, there remains plentiful lessons we can learn from such events.

The Municipality of Carigara was one of several local government units impacted by the recent earthquake. While damages from the earthquake were minimal, it was strong enough to bring attention to significant disaster preparedness gaps in the education sector locally.

In the months following, a pragmatic approach to DRR in schools emerged. Recognizing the importance of placing the education sector at the forefront of disaster risk reduction initiatives, the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO) invested heavily in training teachers and students.

Since the July earthquake, Carigara has provided week-long intensive training covering basic first aid, evacuation procedures, and disaster risk principles to 49 teachers and 24 students. An emergency response team at the local university, staffed entirely by student and teacher volunteers, was also created. Similar efforts are now underway to establish educator-led response teams at high schools and elementary schools in the municipality.

We often talk about ‘mainstreaming DRR’ in education, but what does that really mean? In the case of Carigara, this translates to self-sufficiency of schools and empowered change agents in the education sector. Several important lessons and benefits have emerged from Carigara’s experience:

  1. Bringing DRR education into schools lets students and teachers know that they have a role to play. Students and teachers aren’t just passive observers in emergencies; they can be leaders and advocates in their communities.
  2. The best trainers for the education sector come from within. While initial training often requires expertise to lead, identifying peer leaders embeds DRR awareness on an ongoing basis in schools.
  3. Focusing on DRR in schools can act as a catalyst for broader change in communities. Educational sites afford the ability to pilot community DRR programs, such as hazard mapping, first responder training, or early warning systems, which otherwise may seem too demanding on resources and time. The successful implementation of these pilot programs can provide proof of concept and gain buy-in from local stakeholders for wider community DRR programs.

While plentiful DRR programs invest in ‘things’ – safer buildings, equipment, or early warning systems – it is important to note that at the center of all of these initiatives are people. Carigara’s experience highlights an imperative to invest equal effort in human development and capacities if we are to realize effective disaster risk reduction in the education sector.

Aaron Opdyke, PhD, PE is a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Program Officer with the United States Peace Corps Response. Daryl Daniel Bodo is a Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer III for the Municipality of Carigara, Leyte in the Philippines.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United State Government, the United States Peace Corps, or the Municipality of Carigara.

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