Vanuatu: Preparing children and schools for emergencies is key

With an enrolment of 98 girls and boys, Kings Cross Primary School on Tanna island (Vanuatu), sits nestled at the base of the giant Yasur volcano and the foothill of a mountain to the other side. Due to its location it was not surprising that one of the first scenarios for the emergency drills was a volcanic eruption.

“We have to run up the road and into the hills to higher ground just like we would do if there is a tsunami warning,” 10 year old fourth grader at the school, John, shared.

The headmaster, Marcel, talked at length about the importance of staggering the drills throughout each month.

This is so that children are able to absorb all of the information and learn from the repetition. A scenario a week is what Kings Cross Primary School children have been discussing and practicing. That it had hit home for the children is evident in conversations with 10 year old John.

Marcel (centre), Head Teacher of Kings Cross Primary School in Tanna, talked to Christina, UNICEF Education Officer, about the benefits to his school of the training on emotional support and disaster risk reduction.
UNICEF Pacific/ 2016/ OlulMarcel (centre), Head Teacher of Kings Cross Primary School in Tanna, talked to Christina, UNICEF Education Officer, about the benefits to his school of the training on emotional support and disaster risk reduction.

“We practised what we would do if there is an earthquake and even a cyclone like Cyclone Pam that hit us last year (2015). Some of the buildings here are not strong so even when you are in a building you should still find something like a strong table to hide under to make sure you are extra safe,” John said recalling an incident during Pam when the lives of a mother and son from a nearby village were sadly taken when they were running to an evacuation centre and debris from the building killed them upon impact.

Being prepared for all events is important, according to Marcel. However, drawing on the Pam experience ensuring that his teachers have the knowledge and skills to work with children after the hazard is equally vital. This is to help children recover emotionally and get them back into learning and having fun!

“It is good that we were able to have the training. It has given our teachers the skills and knowledge to work with children and know how to deal with different situations,” stated Marcel.

Marcel expressed how useful the UNICEF-supported psychosocial (emotional) support training and materials, including books and posters, have been in helping teachers to work with the children through different scenarios.

Sylvie, John’s mum, is proud that John is doing well in school and has been participating in emergecy drills that will help to keep him safe.
UNICEF Pacific/ 2016/ OlulSylvie, John’s mum, is proud that John is doing well in school and has been participating in emergecy drills that will help to keep him safe.

While simulations have been organised with the children, the school acknowledges the importance of working with the parents and the broader community within which the children live. There are plans to engage more broadly with parents and the community in early 2017.

UNICEF Pacific promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do — maternal and child health, nutrition, HIV and AIDS, child protection, education, water, sanitation and hygiene as well as policy, advocacy, communication for development, planning and evaluation.

Our multi-country programme and office located in Fiji covers the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

This story was originally published on https://medium.com/@UNICEFPacific

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