When earthquake hit Wenchuan in 2008, many teachers and students died while they were in classes. The poor quality of construction which made the buildings vulnerable to earthquakes was undoubtedly one of the reasons of the casualties; another would be the lack of knowledge in disaster prevention and emergency evacuation skills amongst teachers and students. The government has demanded all schools to conduct disaster prevention classes to pass on the knowledge of disaster prevention and response to students. Without proper training, teachers found it difficult to teach even with teaching material provided. In addition, some schools are very dilapidated and lack basic safety facilities like emergency lighting system or basic fire prevention equipment. Though the principals and teachers worry about the safety of their students, they do not know what they can do.
From 2011, CEDAR started to work with schools in Xuanhan county of Sichuan province to organize disaster prevention and basic health and sanitation workshop and training. It is aimed to assist the teachers to identify risks in their schools and communities, plan emergency evacuation drills and effectively pass on the disaster prevention knowledge. The project also subsidizes a number of schools to improve their safety facilities. CEDAR plans to promote training to 10 more schools in the next 2 years.
Teachers were inspired by the workshop. One of the teachers shared that she has learnt to pass on the message of disaster prevention through real life scenarios, ‘The water level in the river rises in the rainy days, which becomes a risk to the students. I would ask the students to discuss what they need to be aware of before they go home. In this case, the students can remember clearly and know how to apply the knowledge!’ Moreover, her school has started regular emergency evacuation drills after the workshop. Because of such drills, the students know what to do when disaster comes!