Build resilience and empathy

Education prepares vulnerable communities to learn to cope with such events.   | Photo Credit: AFP

India is the fifth most vulnerable country in terms of climate change, according to the Global Climate Risk Index report 2020. In recent years, earthquakes, cyclones, floods, landslides and forest fires have become frequent across the country. Given the severe impact of the climate emergency on economic and social development of vulnerable communities, especially the poor, it is important to build resilience.

It has been noted that children are the most adversely affected by natural hazards, suffering both physical and mental trauma. Various studies have shown an overall reduction in learning outcomes, a drop in attendance and lower academic performance. Further, collapse or severe damage to infrastructure such as school buildings during a disaster disrupts the education process. Limited access to school also results in a large number of students dropping out or losing interest in education.

Creative approach

However, education prepares vulnerable communities to learn to cope with such events. Introducing disaster management in the curriculum should be prioritised. Children must learn about disaster management, but in a manner that does not overburden them. A creative approach could help familiarise them with their surroundings and provide insights into disaster risk reduction and preparedness measures, emergency relief and long-term recovery. Card and board games, re-purposing unused physical spaces in schools and colleges, art and music workshops, and mock drills can be used to impart awareness about disasters. This will establish an active, experiential and participatory learning process between learners and institutions to develop the concept of resilience and how to anticipate, absorb and adapt to disaster events. Thus, the curriculum should have a hybrid approach where traditional wisdom and local knowledge can be used to prevent and mitigate social, economic and psychological effects of natural hazards.

India, traditionally, has been reactive towards disasters and focused valuable resources on relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. Lately, however, there has been a major shift in its approach to pre-disaster aspects of prevention, mitigation, and preparedness.

Essential skills

The word ‘management’ is an integral part of disaster management. Management skills are essential in every aspect of disaster relief, recovery, preparedness and mitigation. Several universities and institutes offer certificate, undergraduate, postgraduate, PG Diploma and research degrees in Disaster Management. Pursuing a course in Disaster Management will involve evaluation of the nature of disasters, relief and rescue planning, socio-technological development, environmental and sustainable development, law and management fundamentals, political and social issues, the role of agencies, field skills, and disaster theory, statistics and logistics and more. The public as well as the humanitarian sector offers several opportunities for such graduates.

Future generations are the potential catalysts of change to build resilience in their communities. As a result, it becomes integral to empower them to explore and learn these essential life skills. Introducing this in the curriculum will also inculcate compassion, accountability, and empathy towards the affected and vulnerable communities.

Introducing Disaster Management in the curriculum of schools, colleges and universities will make the educated youth address these crises with their knowledge, self-confidence, and survival skills in lesser times. Awareness among the student community will help build a better, stronger and resilient nation.

The writer is the Co-Founder, SEEDS, and a disaster management specialist who is currently spearheading Honeywell Safe Schools programme.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 8:57:34 PM |

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