Media centre

Introduction

Latest news

Publications

Calendar

Ethical Guidelines

Contact information

 

Educating children on disaster risks in Georgia

Today is the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. This year children and young people are encouraged to step up and take part. Check out a series of stories from countries in the region on disaster preparedness through education.

MLETA, Georgia, 13 October 2011 — The children sat patiently at their desks, listening intently. Then, at the sound of the megaphone from the corridor outside their classroom, they stood in a line and started moving towards the door.

“Don’t run,” the teacher kept extolling them, as they filed excitedly out of the room. In the corridor they joined other classes, also making their way outside the building under the guidance of pupil marshals wearing bright orange vests plus teachers and staff from the Emergency Management Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Clearly enjoying the break in normal classes that this evacuation exercise was providing, there was no mistaking the obvious value of such drills in the event of a real disaster. The village of Mleta, nearly a two hour drive north of the Georgian capital Tbilisi in the foothills of the Southern Caucasus Mountains, is prone to a variety of potential disasters.

It is all part of the school’s efforts in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). Since June 2010, UNICEF, in collaboration with Georgia’s Ministry of Education and Science, the National Curriculum and Assessment Centre, the Emergency Management Department  of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN) has been implementing a DRR project amongst vulnerable communities, funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

As of September this year, DRR is fully incorporated in the national curriculum.

 “We haven’t had a snow avalanche yet,” said Maia Burduli, a member of the School Disaster Management Board. “But there are often days during the winter when we have to close the school for fear of an avalanche, and classes are disrupted.”

Maia was talking to us outside the newly completed school building, nestling below the steep sides of the Aragvi River Valley. The gradient means this area is prone to avalanches during winter, and mudslides in summer. As the rain began to fall, small rivulets of muddy water instantly formed on the steep dirt track at the front of the building, and staff told us when the rain was stronger, the road was impassable. It was easy to see how landslides could occur here.

Tornike Gagadze, aged 15, knows only too well.  He was asleep in bed one Saturday morning, when a massive landslide blocked the river, quickly inundating his house and his neighbours’. 

“Of course it was terrifying,” said Tornike, standing in front of the ruins of his home, the surge of silt and rubble deposited by the flood, half submerging the structure.  “I opened the door and saw the water level rising so quickly.  I had never experienced anything like it before.”

He, his father Vazha Gagadze and his grandmother, barely had time to escape with their lives and the few valuables they could grab, losing most of their furniture and possessions.  Back at the school, Tornike relived the event, depicting the scene on the chalk board.  Beside him, classmate Natia Burduli was drawing a picture of a bigger flood in 2007 which ruined farms, and nearly destroyed their village church.  The rest of the class were in a group, playing a board game which taught them about the different types of disaster and ways of dealing with them.

An important element of this programme, has been the incorporation of DRR education into the national school curriculum.  Learning materials for school children and teachers, along with educational games and child-friendly posters have been developed.  Head teachers from selected pilot schools have been trained.  And Disaster Management Boards have been established, as at this school in Mleta. Global climate change is likely to exarcerbate extreme weather conditions making the likelihood of disasters arising from natural hazards more frequent and more intense. 

While Board members looked on, colleagues from the Emergency Management Department staged a demonstration for the school’s pupils and staff on the array of emergency equipment available to them.   The children’s obvious eagerness to learn, was proof that their involvement is the best way of ensuring safety messages are conveyed to their families and the wider community.

“The project has been excellent in a sense that it’s got societies and communities to look at DRR through the eyes of those that they hold most precious, which is children,” said Benjamin Perks, UNICEF, Deputy Representative in Georgia.

Natia Jokhadze, Director of the National Curriculum and Assessment Center, was in full agreement. “We have had the feedback from the teachers and the students,” she said. “The children are very motivated and are spreading information to their families which is very important for DRR in education.”

This is also in line with the vision of the European Union. European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid Kristalina Georgieva said, “Looking forward, in this world of more disasters, more intense conflicts, we see two very important priorities. One is to collaborate on linking what we do in relief immediately after a disaster with what we do in development. How we provide lifesaving support but then we also provide hope for the future.”
 
As the children of Mleta school, and others throughout Georgia learn about the different types of disaster that could befall them, the hope is that they never have to put their new-found knowledge to the test. But in this disaster-prone part of the South Caucasus region, they had better be prepared, just in case.

Mainstreaming into national curriculum

An important element of this programme has been the incorporation of DRR education into the national school curriculum.

Learning materials for school children and teachers, along with educational games and child-friendly posters have been developed. Head teachers from selected pilot schools have been trained. And Disaster Management Boards have been established, as at this school in Mleta. Global climate change is likely to exacerbate extreme weather conditions making the likelihood of disasters arising from natural hazards more frequent and more intense.

While Board members looked on, colleagues from the Emergency Management Department staged a demonstration for the school’s pupils and staff on the array of emergency equipment available to them. The children’s obvious eagerness to learn was proof that their involvement is the best way of ensuring safety messages are conveyed to their families and the wider community.

“The project has been excellent in a sense that it’s got societies and communities to look at DRR through the eyes of those that they hold most precious, which is children,” said Benjamin Perks, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Georgia.

Natia Jokhadze, Director of the National Curriculum and Assessment Center, was in full agreement. “We have had the feedback from the teachers and the students,” she said. “The children are very motivated and are spreading information to their families which is very important for DRR in education.”

As the children of Mleta School and others throughout Georgia learn about the different types of disaster that could befall them, the hope is that they never have to put their new-found knowledge to the test. But in this disaster-prone part of the South Caucasus region, they had better be prepared, just in case.

 

 

 

 

Photo essay

Click here to see schoolboy Tornike Gagadze's story and how important learning disaster risk reduction is for him and his family.

 


Search:

 Email this article

unite for children