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Keeping schools safe from disasters in the Philippines

The Asia Pacific region is one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world, experiencing nearly half of the world’s natural disasters in the past decade. Around 200 million children living in this region, are at risk of losing their lives, their livelihood or face displacement from their homes because of natural disasters.  These disasters not only jeopardise a child’s right to survival but affects their basic education.

Typhoon Haiyan

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons on record, struck the Philippines. Darin, who was 18 years old at the time, was on a bus to her hometown in Iloilo province when she saw the destruction the typhoon had caused.

“I could not help myself from crying as I saw the aftermath of the disaster,” she said. “Many houses and infrastructure were damaged, trees were uprooted, roads were damaged, and communities were terribly affected.”

Darin thought that if people were more prepared, the impact may not have been as big as it was.

Working with Prudence Foundation to keep schools safe

Since 2013, Save the Children have been working in partnership with Prudence Foundation to ensure children in the Philippines are safe from disasters through their joint Safe Schools project. Like Darin, the partnership recognises the importance of education and preparedness in helping to reduce the risks caused by natural disasters and supporting an early recovery.

Teachers signing an agreement on criteria for a safe school
Teachers signing an agreement on criteria for a safe school

The project provides direct training to children and teachers on how to better prepare for, manage and quickly recover from the impacts of disasters. Known as Batang (Child in Filipino) Empowered and Resilient Team (BERT) facilitators, lead school children are trained to promote disaster preparedness and children’s rights among their fellow students. Equally teachers themselves are trained as Advisors to ensure they have the capacity to support and coach BERT children.

Helping children to be better prepared for disasters

Darin a BERT adviser who supported the introduction of disaster reduction into her classes
Darin a BERT advisor in the Philippines

Darin, now a BERT Advisor in her school, can see the changes the project has brought to her students. “Students did not know how to protect themselves from disasters or natural hazards,” she said. However, after embedding disaster risk reduction related activities into her lessons she noticed that students became more aware of the different early warning systems and what do in times of emergencies.

The impact of BERT has been so successful in increasing children’s awareness and preparedness for disasters, that the Filipino Department of Education issued a memorandum to institutionalise BERT in every public school in the Division of Iloilo. Subsequently, the project has grown from supporting an initial 10 partner schools, to training over 3,000 children as BERT facilitators across 313 schools in the Philippines.

What’s next for safe schools in the Philippines?

With Prudence Foundation’s continued support, we are now working with national and local governments to address the challenges and barriers that prevent the scale up of a safe schools initiative across the Philippines, providing the opportunity to ensure all children and their families are safe from disasters.

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