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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs