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UNICEF-supported programme prepares Georgian students for potential disasters

By Rob McBride

TBLISI, Georgia, 12 October 2011 - In the little village of Mleta, students sat patiently at their desks, listening intently. At the sound of the megaphone blaring from the corridor outside their classroom, they stood up, formed a line and started moving towards the door in an orderly fashion.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Rob McBride reports on lessons in Disaster Risk Reduction for students in Georgia.  Watch in RealPlayer


“Don’t run,” the teacher kept extolling the children, as they filed excitedly out of the room.

Aside from providing students with an enjoyable break from class, there is no mistaking the obvious value of such evacuation drills in the event of a real disaster. For this school, located in the foothills of the Southern Caucasus Mountains, they are particularly important.

“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.”

Officially incorporated

Tornike Gagadze, 15, knows only too well of the potential dangers facing his village. One Saturday morning, while asleep in bed, a massive landslide blocked the river which in turn inundated his house.

© UNICEF video
Children at Tbilisi Public School #43, using board game materials in a Disaster Risk Reduction class.

“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.”

Since June 2010, UNICEF along with local Government and NGO partners, have been implementing a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programme amongst vulnerable communities, funded by the European Commission humanitarian aid department.

Officially incorporated into Georgia's national school curriculum last month, special DRR learning materials for school children and teachers have been developed, along with educational games and child-friendly posters. Moreover, training has been provided to teachers from selected pilot schools.

Staying prepared

“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.

© UNICEF video
Staff from the local emergency services in Mleta, Georgia, demonstrating equipment to school students and teachers.

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.



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