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Promoting "Earthquake Safer Schools", Saving Lives

© UNICEF Armenia/E.Sahakyan
"Earthquake safer schools" workshop brought together school administrators, local officials and emergency agencies to discuss how to make Armenian schools more prepared for potential earthquakes and disasters.

YEREVAN, 19 March 2007 – Schools play a crucial role in times of disasters, and what children in schools learn in advance can save their lives.

A two-day workshop "Earthquake Safer Schools" organized on March 13-14 by UNICEF jointly with a team of trainers from the UN International Secretariat for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and Central Asia Earthquake Safety Initiative (CARESI) brought together representatives of the Ministry of Education, the National Institute of Education, the Crisis Management Academy, the Armenian Red Cross, school administrators and teachers to discuss how to ensure that schools and communities are better prepared for an earthquake. The workshop was funded by the European Community Humanitarian Office.

"Disasters, including earthquakes, can happen anywhere at any time. Given their impact on children, their families and their communities, we have an obligation to prepare for them beforehand, and not just respond to them once they occur," UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett said, addressing the workshop participants.

Educational institutions and properly trained school administrators, teachers and children have an important role to play in preparing for, and mitigating the consequences of an earthquake. "We know well that the earthquake threatened communities need earthquake resistant schools to protect the lives of the children. However, community participation and education are equally necessary to make mitigation and disaster preparedness work, and effective communication and cooperation between local officials, emergency specialists and the education community is key", the UNICEF Representative stressed.

Children also share information that they learn in schools with other members of their community.
With the support of UNICEF, the Ministry of Education has already introduced "life skills" in the basic education curriculum. Life skills are skills which can help children make informed decisions, communicate effectively, and develop coping and self-management skills. The material includes lessons on disaster preparedness.

Among other topics, the workshop addressed such important issues as the role of school administrators in developing practical contingency plans, and the roles of teachers and other community members as first responders while awaiting support from rescue services.

"It is important that the Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Education closely cooperate with the Crisis Management Academy in further improving the knowledge and skills of school administrators and teachers on disaster preparedness and response," Deputy Director of the National Institute of Education Vardan Ghandilyan pointed out, adding that there is a wealth of resources on disaster preparedness and response already available.

"Recent international experience has shown that, as was true in the last major earthquake in Armenia in 1988, children in schools are sometimes among the most vulnerable" Sheldon Yett emphasized.


For more information, please, contact:

Emil Sahakyan, UNICEF Armenia Communications Officer

Tel.: (374 10) 52 35 46, 58 01 74




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