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Children still grow up separated from their families in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
School Children Embrace Critical Life Safety Lessons
In a light and cosy classroom in Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan, children listen attentively to their geography teacher giving a lecture on earth’s crust. Suddenly, a signal by the teacher livens up the room, as children form groups and start a lively discussion and begin scribbling notes. After a while, they come out with sticky notes in their hands and paste them on a big blackboard, which becomes fully covered with colourful pieces of paper in just a matter of seconds.
“This is a special part of the lesson where we provide information on basics of life safety, which is a part of the main subject being taught,” explains Malika Matnazarova, a teacher in school no 69. “Today’s geography lesson is about the earth’s crust, and features an integrated topic about earthquakes and appropriate action before and during earthquakes.”
“If an earthquake hits while we are in a building, we should not use stairs and stand in a corner or under a door frame,” says 13-year-old Marjona, who is excited about the things she learned during this course.
Integrating Basics of Life Safety in Schools
Marjona and her classmates at the school No 69 have been learning about disaster preparedness and safe behaviours fr om materials developed under a programme on integrated teaching of ‘Basics of life safety’” course. This is a joint effort by the Ministry of Public Education and UNICEF to introduce information related to disaster risk reduction and safe behaviour into the school curricula so that children get vital knowledge and skills for dealing with emergency situations.
‘Basics of life safety’ course identifies specific topics in different subjects for each grade, wh ere relevant information on disaster risk reduction and safe behaviour are incorporated. These topics are included in a set of materials developed by the inter-ministerial working group, comprising experts on education and emergency preparedness.
Two more schools in the regions of Kashkadarya and Samarqand are involved in this testing the effectiveness of these materials. .
Children are most at-risk during man-made and natural disasters. So the plan is to gradually introduce this integrated course nationwide once the testing of materials is successful, as promoting safe behaviours among children helps save lives.
Absorbing New and Vital Knowledge
Uzbekistan is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. It is crucial for to be prepared for the event of an earthquake.
Sukhail, a 13-year-old school boy from the Tashkent school number 69, knows the risks posed by seismic waves. “So far tremors have been minor so I do not notice them much,” he says with a smile on his face. “But I am confident that I know what to do when a serious one happens. I can also advise my family members.”
He says that during the course, his classmates and he also learned about other types of natural disasters, including landslides, snowstorms and floods.
Staying Safer at Home
For children, it is especially important to adopt safe behaviours in their everyday lives - when staying at home, going to school or playing in open air. Many children face different risks in their own homes, especially when they are left alone. Many risks arise from mishandling of home appliances that use electricity and gas.
That is why the programme was designed to provide children with simple tips for practicing safe behaviours and reducing risks in their everyday lives. With a focus on preventing such unpleasant incidents, the developed materials explain the dangers that might be posed by electric home appliances, chemical substances and vehicles.
The students also learn how to stay out of trouble when doing some of the things they like most, such as swimming in pools or when they are using computers and mobile phones.
Children Embrace the Course
Teachers at the school have been pleasantly surprised with the popularity of the materials and information on life safety among the students. They say children have been enjoying the special booklets that were developed for testing, and became the main source of information on disaster risk reduction and safe behaviour.
Sukhail says that some of his friends from other classes, who are not part of the testing process, and do not have the relevant materials, have been borrowing his booklets. “My classmates and I would be happy if they make these topics a separate subject in future,” he says.
Teachers believe the booklets have been a success because they use simple language and culturally-sensitive and subject-specific illustrations.
“These are amazing books about everyday life situations. We always wanted to explain these things to our children, but had neither the opportunity nor enough information to do so before,” says teacher Hurshida Usmonova. “These are the things that I want to teach to my own children at home,” she says.