News / Asia

Indonesia 'Hardens' Schools Against Disaster Risk

Aid workers and students simulate an earthquake evacuation at Jejeran Islamic Elementary School in Bantul, Central Java, Indonesia, October 22, 2012. (S. Schonhardt/VOA)
Aid workers and students simulate an earthquake evacuation at Jejeran Islamic Elementary School in Bantul, Central Java, Indonesia, October 22, 2012. (S. Schonhardt/VOA)
Sara Schonhardt
Asia has seen some of the world’s worst natural disasters over the past decade - earthquakes in Indonesia and China, flooding in Thailand and Cambodia. A region-wide conference on disaster risk reduction this week is focusing on schools and how to make them safer and more resilient. 
 
The children at Jejeran State Islamic Elementary School in Yogyakarta are simulating an earthquake drill. They pour from their classrooms with school bags held over their heads. A few grab stretchers and first aid kits and attend to injured classmates. Once they have assembled in the yard a student leader reads out a disaster report: four dead, five injured, all victims have been evacuated.
 
In 2006 an earthquake struck this part of Central Java, severely damaging more than 2,900 schools, including this one.
 
Margiyanti, who teaches grade four at Jejeran, says the disaster taught the community about rebuilding and the importance of prevention.
 
Indonesia is a region that is highly vulnerable to disasters - earthquakes and floods - so the children must be prepared, she says. If they are at school or at home they must know what to do.
 
In 2010 Jejeran became part of a global campaign to make schools safer from natural disasters. Using money from foreign donors, the program tries to improve school construction techniques and create curriculum to prepare students for disasters.
 
The Indonesian government, meanwhile, launched a program to rehabilitate thousands of schools around the country.
 
Musliar Kasim, the vice minister for education, says almost 200,000 schools are in need of renovation to bring them up to global safety standards.
 
“Our school right now is already old, the buildings are already old because they’ve been built more than 30 years ago," said Kasim. "So the condition of the schools has to renovate. When we rehabilitate the building we have to use the concept of safe schools.”
 
Officials and aid workers say governments around the region have made progress in reducing the risks associated with environmental disasters. Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and Burma have also launched pilot projects focused on creating safer schools.
 
But still more needs to be done.
 
Students trained in first aid assist a classmate during a mock earthquake drill in Central Java, Indonesia, October 22, 2012. (S. Schonhardt/VOA)Students trained in first aid assist a classmate during a mock earthquake drill in Central Java, Indonesia, October 22, 2012. (S. Schonhardt/VOA)
x
Students trained in first aid assist a classmate during a mock earthquake drill in Central Java, Indonesia, October 22, 2012. (S. Schonhardt/VOA)
Students trained in first aid assist a classmate during a mock earthquake drill in Central Java, Indonesia, October 22, 2012. (S. Schonhardt/VOA)
In 2008 more than 7,000 shoddily-built school buildings collapsed during a 7.9-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan Province in China, killing thousands of students.
 
In the Philippines, typhoon Durian caused $20 million in damage to schools across three provinces in 2006.
 
While better construction is at the heart of the safe schools initiative, many organizations are pushing for a broader approach that also includes emergency drills and lessons that integrate disaster education.
 
In a developing region with a high population of children, students are often disproportionately affected when natural disasters destroy schools, which stops education for months or longer.
 
Antony Spalton is a risk reduction specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund.
 
“We know there’s a strong relationship between hazards and development, and whether that’s economic development or whether it’s social development," he said."Children are driven out of school by floods and earthquakes.”
 
The fund is working with different international organizations to create a place where governments can get technical support on school safety and share knowledge.
 
More than a dozen students from around the region attended this week’s conference to share their experiences. In Japan, a group of students has formed a club that meets weekly to discuss ways to raise awareness about disasters and rebuilding.
 
In Cambodia, 17-year-old Sopaoeurn has also formed a disaster management committee, led a tree planting initiative and pushed the school to raise its floor boards to avoid the flash floods that often hit her province.
 
Disaster does not only affect one person, but many people around the world, she says. Most importantly, it impacts students in schools.
 
Teachers at Jejeran elementary say they are ready if a disaster ever strikes again. The school holds routine training drills every few months to refresh the students’ skills. In the classrooms, evacuation signs point the way to safety.
 
This school is still unusual in the developing world, where lack of funding and coordination makes replicating similar programs difficult. But aid groups say they are making progress by highlighting the successes.
 
Officials at Indonesia’s national disaster management agency say they are making safe schools a priority, because a solid, resilient building can be critical for teaching students - and entire communities - how to prepare for and deal with future disasters.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid