Oro students first off the mark to play Riskland
By Noreen Chambers
July 2012, Popondetta, Papua New Guinea: Twelve-year-old Archie Ohusa still holds distressing memories of his home town, Popondetta, ravaged by a cyclone five years ago and he fears it can happen again.
Archie was only eight years old in 2007 when he witnessed category 3 severe tropical Cyclone Guba lash across Oro Province, leaving in its wake a devastating trail of destruction that swept away roads and bridges, and damaged food gardens, family homes, schools and other infrastructure. His family joined many other families and camped out in a church yard after their homes flooded that unforgettable day.
“I was frightened because this was the first time for me to see something like this and I was worried about losing our house,” Archie recalls.
Up to 2000 homes were completely destroyed and some 9,500 people displaced when Cyclone Guba devastated this coastal province. A reported 149 people died while close to 58,000 people who needed assistance could not be helped immediately because flood waters destroyed and washed away 56 bridges and culverts making assistance delivery very challenging.
Now a fourth grader at Sorovi Primary School, Archie relates his experience to UNICEF officers who are at his school to introduce the Riskland Game.
Riskland is a fun-filled educational board game aimed at providing lower primary school students with an understanding of what disaster reduction and risk management is all about. The game conveys messages that help students understand how some actions can reduce the impact of disasters, while others can increase our vulnerability. When students play the game, they learn about what they can do to reduce disaster impacts by answering questions and advancing along the boards winning path or going back several spaces for actions that increase our vulnerabilities
Sorovi Primary School is the first school in the country to play the Riskland Game. Popondetta was chosen as the first province to trial the game because of its vulnerability to flooding disasters. Head teacher, Letercia Genau is pleased her school is chosen to be the first to trial the game.
“We had to close the school for a period of time in 2007 when Cyclone Guba struck and our students were forced to stay home. Many families lost their homes and food gardens. Certain areas around the school become water logged when it rains continuously and I’m happy that this game will help my students to learn about disaster preparedness. Children learn better if it is done in a fun way,” Mrs. Genau says.
Before the students can play the game, UNICEF’s Education Officer for Early Childhood Care and Development, Cathy Patuvii takes the teachers through one hour of in-service training to demonstrate how the Riskland Game can be integrated into the existing curriculum and classroom lessons to make it more meaningful.
Based on the lower primary school curriculum, Cathy explains a unit of work that has been developed to integrate the Riskland Game into the curriculums subject strands – Literature, Social Science, Community Living and Environmental Studies. The teachers find the integration very useful and are keen to start using the game in their lessons.
Shortly after the in-service training, a chorus of voice rings out: “You helped to clean a polluted river. Advance six steps”. Sorovi Primary School fourth graders are spread out on the school lawn in groups of six and are playing Riskland. Archie’s group is getting the hang of the game and his team mates read out the instructions as a team player lands on square 6 and he is instructed to advance six spaces because his action to clean a polluted river will help reduce the negative impact of a flooding disaster.
To make learning about disaster fun for the youngsters, Riskland includes several risk activities, a work book for teachers and 20 worksheets for students.
Riskland was first developed by International Strategy for Disaster Reduction of the United Nations for children in Latin America and the Carribbean. UNICEF adapted the game to the Papua New Guinea context. The Department of Education is distributing Riskland to all schools in the country.
It is hoped that a young generation of school children, through playing Riskland, will teach their families and communities about natural hazards and help develop a culture of not only risk reduction but risk prevention as well