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January 22, 2015

Call for uninterrupted education in disaster zones


January 22, 2015

With the increasing frequency of natural disasters and political turmoil, Pakistan’s existing educational crisis has been accentuated.
As such, more concerted efforts are needed to manage uninterrupted education in emergency situations at the federal, provincial and local levels.
This was the consensus among experts at the workshop launching a policy brief, “Transforming Pedagogies: Emerging Contexts and Texts of Teaching Learning”, on Monday.
The workshop was organised by the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development with the support of the Department for International Development, UK.
“Emergencies can also be used as a window on opportunity to address the existing educational concerns in affected areas. Our disaster response plans should include ways to address psychological concerns, and return to normalcy,” said Dr Dilshad Ashraf, the moderator and an associate professor at AKU-IED.
She narrated the example of a brave woman, Farzana Bibi, in the earthquake-stricken areas of northern Pakistan in 2005, who had lost all her four children to the disaster but within a week she was back at the school teaching, so that the children who were alive did not suffer.
This was a tribute to the woman’s selflessness and spirit of sacrifice. “Teacher training programmes need to include interventions strategies such as counselling as a first step to reaching out to children amid affected circumstances,” she added. “Education is considered an afterthought when it comes to catastrophes.”
Sadiqa Salahuddin, the director of the Indus Resource Centre, narrated the case of a tent village her organisation had set up after the 2010 deluge that housed 195 families but there were only three learning centres and of the 156 children, only 26 had been to school before the disaster.
As part of the recommendations, she said children who were the victims of natural disasters needed the kind of education that

paid as much attention to their protection to mitigate their trauma and cultivate their minds to assimilate learning. To begin with, non-formal education be preferred; disaster risk reduction be incorporated into the schools curriculum like civil defence, and children be acquainted with gender issues.
Ali Effendi, the senior programme officer of education at the Aga Khan Foundation Islamabad, was of the view that in line with the thinking of his highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, schools should be treated as more than just seats of learning and due attention be paid to their location and architecture.
He cited the case of a school by the river bank which was engulfed by floods every year. “The architecture and locale,” Effendi added, “had to be changed.” “We must focus on a strategy for schools’ safety.”
Aziz Kabani, the managing director of the Sindh Education Foundation, mentioned the example of an African country where, he said, internally displaced persons had to be lodged for 17 years. In such cases, he said, a whole generation remained uneducated. “We must formulate a strategy to grapple with this kind of an exigency,” he added. “Besides, education goes a long way in raising awareness of rights. It also leads to better health management in the affected countries.”
Sindh government officials informed the audience that after the 18th constitutional amendment, they had taken a step forward in recognising the issues of education in emergencies through the recently launched Sindh Education Sector Plan 2014.
The plan lays emphasis on developing the capacity of educational managers, school management committees and teachers. However, topics related to emergencies have not been integrated into the national curriculum as proposed by the National Education Policy 2009.
The current national curriculum, created in 2006, has not been updated since. Referring to the 19 minimum standards of International Network for Education in Emergencies, the experts said Pakistan could greatly benefit if these standards were incorporated in the National Disaster Response Plan.

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