SUVA, 14 November 2019 – Today, in the lead up to World Children’s Day and on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children from Ba Muslim Primary School will ‘takeover’ the school assembly, and together with about 400 primary school students demonstrate to head teachers and school committee members how they are prepared for disasters following the launch of a new education programme in their school.
“I am leading on the formal address for the school assembly today to inform students that we, the children of Fiji, have rights. This includes the right to be educated and the right to be included in activities to prepare for disasters,” said Alesha Aliyah, a year seven student at Ba Muslim Primary School.
We’re excited to be celebrating #CRC30 and #WorldChildrensDay at Ba Muslim Primary School today. Primary school children participated in a student-led emergency practice simulation, leading the way to be better prepared for emergencies in their school. pic.twitter.com/ZtMljBRTnx— UNICEF Pacific (@UNICEFPacific) November 14, 2019
Fiji has taken the first step forward in the region with school students participating in this disaster preparedness training, which is currently being rolled out in 134 schools in Ra, Ba and Tavua districts.
Ba Muslim Primary School was one of the 495 schools damaged in the biggest cyclone to ever hit Fiji in 2016, Cyclone Winston. With the approaching cyclone season in Fiji, these school students are being empowered to claim their rights, including to live in a safe and sustainable environment. They will be better prepared to respond to any potential disaster through activities such as the emergency practice simulation being held today.
“Fiji ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993 and continues to strengthen its commitment to child rights through ensuring schools and school communities are resilient, able to identify and manage disaster risks, and are prepared to effectively respond to disasters when they do occur,” said Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, Mr Timoci Bure.
UNICEF is supporting this Disaster Risk Reduction in Schools programme in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, which will assist schools and communities prepare for future natural disasters, such as cyclones, floods or drought. This school programme includes activities that not only focus on preparedness, but also develop knowledge on the safety and resilience among children, teachers and school communities.
“We are pleased that children are standing up for their rights on this momentous occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It’s important children play an active role in preparing for disasters in the Pacific region, which is the most at-risk for natural disasters in the world. Children are the most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change and children must be involved in learning how to be prepared for disasters and how to best protect themselves,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett.
Following Cyclone Winston, 120,000 children were affected, including the students at Ba Muslim Primary School.
“During Cyclone Winston, the roof from our school building was blown off and we were moved to the hostel in the school grounds. There were about 100 students in each room. It was too hot and congested as there was no electricity. We had to study in this hostel for almost 6 months,” said Maziah Musfirah, Head Girl of Ba Muslim Primary School.
She added, “The emergency drill we are having is important for students to know how to protect ourselves and what we should do if there is another disaster. This is the first time for students to lead this drill and we are very excited.”
Students who experienced this cyclone, are today showing the rest of the country how much better prepared they will be in the case of any future disaster. Trainings are being held with head teachers, teachers, school management and community members, as well as students, to learn how to best minimize impacts of hazards and disasters in their school communities and prepare for potential disasters.
Fiji’s school-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Building education programme is supported by UNICEF and led by the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts jointly with the National Disaster Management Office, and in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme, Save the Children, Australian Government’s Fiji Program Support Facility and United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction.
The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts is responsible for the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of educational legislations, policies and programmes in Fiji. MEHA provides the structures, human resources, budget and administrative and management support to ensure that the quality of service delivery is maintained at a high level.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.