School intensifies disaster preparedness
“Some time last year we had two terrible disasters. One of our grade one learners was knocked down by a car on her way to school, while crossing the busy Beitbridge to Gwanda road. Fortunately, the girl had minor injuries and was rushed to hospital and she survived,” says Edson Ncengani the Headmaster at Malala Primary School in Beitbridge District.
“In February last year, our school administration block and the adjacent classroom block were struck by lightning. Luckily the incident happened when the learners had been dismissed from school. There was severe damage to students’ exercise books, furniture and some stationery that was inside the affected classroom,” Ncengani said.
These two incidents were a wake-up call for the school authorities at Malala. One year later, Malala Primary School which enrols 1017 children from ECD to Grade 7, has intensified efforts to prepare and respond to any disaster that may strike. This is being done to reduce the risk of losing lives among school children and teachers, as well as loss to school property. The Malala Primary School disaster risk reduction initiative is being implemented in partnership with Save the Children, with funding from the European Union Humanitarian Aid.
“All the teachers at our school received some training on disaster risk management. Four of our teachers attended high level workshops in the district, and came back to conduct disaster preparedness sessions with all the learners from ECD to grade 7,” added Ncengani.
“Learners can now single out possible disasters, how to prevent them and how to react whenever such disasters occur. We acknowledge that children by their nature may forget or overlook some stuff, so we continue to conduct refresher sessions for the children on disaster risk reduction (DRR),” said the headmaster.
Ncengani said the school has made arrangements with parents and teachers to help the learners in the infant grades to safely cross the road.
“Each morning, the parents accompany the learners to school, and help them to cross the road. When the infant learners dismiss, we make it a point that every day the teachers take turns to assist the children in safely crossing the busy Beitbridge to Bulawayo highway, which is situated just outside our school’s main gate,” he said.
“This road is really a death trap, so we make sure that the teachers and parents assist the learners to cross to and from school. During the rainy season, the parents also take turns to help the children to cross the nearby river safely on their way to school.”
Once in a while, the teachers and learners from the school participate in practical sessions on disaster risk reduction, so as to raise awareness on possible disasters and help the children to better manage the risks. These include visits to the highway to learn about how to safely cross the road, visits to nearby rivers and other possible disaster areas for learning purposes.
In addition, two of the teachers at the school, Terezia Hwande and Tryphine Moyo have been appointed the school’s Disaster Risk Reduction focal persons. They have since trained both teachers and learners in conducting practical sessions on DRR that include fire drills.
“In case of an emergency we blow our whistle as a way of communicating with the children and staff, and they move quickly in a single file and go to our disaster risk management assembly point. We then do a roll call to check if all the children are safe and to tell them the way forward,” said Terezia Hwande.
This is done to avoid stampedes, which may result in further loss of lives, as well as accounting for all the students. These efforts are helping the school to remain prepared to manage any disaster.
Malala Primary School, is among the 60 schools selected from Beitbridge and Matobo Districts, which are participating in the School Based Disaster Risk Reduction initiative. This is part of the Ready to Act project being implemented by Save the Children, OXFAM and International Rescue Committee with funding from the European Union Humanitarian Aid.