Schools in BiH act to establish safe school environments for a more effective response to emergencies

Source(s)
United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Over 3,000 children in 10 schools will be trained on what to do in an emergency and to develop resilience to disasters through this Programme.

Ten schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina will establish safe school environment for the purpose of providing more efficient prevention and preparedness in emergencies, which is the result of activities implemented within the Joint Programme of the Swiss Government and the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Disaster Risk Reduction for Sustainable Development in BiH”.

This Programme has supported the implementation of the “Safe School Environment” model in schools across BiH through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with non-governmental organization World Vision BiH. The goal of the “Safe School Environment” model, which is supported by the relevant state, entity and cantonal institutions, is to assist schools in BiH in providing a better response to natural and other disasters, reducing or completely avoiding their negative effects.

According to the World Vision BiH’s survey from 2018, which was conducted in 724 schools in the BiH Federation Entity and Brcko District, children and teaching staff are facing the risks directly at school. The survey shows that only 10 percent of schools have in place plans for rescue from natural and other disasters.

Having recognized the importance of improving school safety and security, over 3,000 children will be trained through the Programme in what to do in an emergency and to develop resilience to disasters. Ten School DRR teams have been established through the Programme for the purpose of systemic capacity building for risk management and response to emergencies.

These Teams link the organizations and institutions which are important for provision of a response in emergencies and they are part of local DRR Platforms. Also, a series of workshops have been held for members of the School DRR teams for the purpose of their training in development of plans for risk management and response to emergencies and also in increasing understanding of the role of the education sector, with an emphasis on schools in a coordinated model of disaster risk prevention and reduction at the local level (DRR).

Important Programme activities were implemented also in the Secondary Technical School “Kemal Kapetanović” in Kakanj. The school's building conditions were diagnosed, a number of workshops were held and the documentation required for risk analysis and assessment in the school building was collected.

The school principal Haris Ljubović has said that they have managed to establish cooperation with other institutions in order for the school to be more operational in case of natural and other disasters.

“I am immensely happy that the school DRR team consists of the people who, first of all, like and do their jobs honestly, which guarantees that the team will do their utmost to implement the project activities successfully. We have learned a lot through the project, and we are trained to transfer our knowledge further”, said Mr. Ljubović. 

A representative of the Parents Council of the Secondary Technical School “Kemal Kapetanović”, Zerina Šehagić, explains that the security and safety situation at the school is very bad, and that it should improve through active work of the DRR team consisting of representatives of the school, civil protection, the Red Cross, the Center for Social Welfare, firefighters and medical doctors.

“The school is completely unsafe in terms of its structure. The construction materials are unacceptable, the school has only one entrance and exit, it does not have plans, nor does it conduct evacuation drills…This is the reason why the project activities aimed at improving safety of children and teaching staff are absolutely necessary. The links between the school and rescue services have been strengthened through the project, which is crucial in crisis situations”, said Ms. Šehagić.

All members of the DRR team at the Secondary Technical School “Kemal Kapetanović” are advocates of stronger involvement of the relevant ministries and other institutions in enhancing resilience of the schools to natural and other disasters.

The City of Bihać is also involved in improving the organization of work of all protection and rescue services in the planning of a response to an emergency. Members of the DRR team in Bihać are planning to work on developing an assessment of natural and other hazards in the City of Bihać as a fundamental document in this area.

Mirsad Šehić, a member of the School DRR team in the Elementary School “Harmani II” in Bihać, thinks that the activities of the local DRR Platforms in the education sector creates many opportunities for the implementation of various projects which will contribute to disaster risk reduction in schools. 

“In the past, we used to organize fire and evacuation drills from time to time, and they will be organized more often through this project and will further strengthen the links between this sector and all civil protection structures”, said Mr. Šehić.

He added that the DRR Platform had indicated insufficient material, staffing and organizational resources of civil protection in Bihać, including firefighters, whose role is crucial in declaring a natural or another disaster.

“It is necessary to work on training and equipping all civil protection structures. This is why, such projects are always welcome in our local community which becomes better organized, trained and equipped through the project activities for more effective prevention activities and also operations to be conducted in case of a disaster”, said Mr. Šehić.  

The principal of the Elementary School “Desanka Maksimović” in Prijedor, Zdravko Budimir, said that the implementation of the “Safe School Environment” model had multiple significance for BiH, which is the reason why he believes that it would be good to implement it in every school in BiH.  

“By participating in this project, we have conducted a detailed assessment of the school building condition and all possible risks that exist. We have learned what can be a cause of a disaster, the consequences and also which measures need to be taken to avoid a disaster. It is necessary to engage more members of our broader community in everything we do and also to share responsibility”, Mr. Budimir said. 

World Vision BiH is advocating introduction of lessons on prevention and preparedness for a response to an emergency in the school curricula and to work actively towards strengthening cooperation between schools and the non-governmental sector in the implementation of joint activities for the purpose of disaster management.

“By training children and the school staff in what needs to be done in case of natural and other disasters, implementing evacuation drills and strengthening cooperation between schools and municipal/city services which are important for protection and rescue, we shall improve the safety of children and the school staff in ten schools in which the Programme is implemented in partnership with UNICEF. Safety of children is an investment, not a cost. Informed and trained children of today will be adult and responsible persons tomorrow”, said the World Vision BiH director, Larisa Klepac.  

“Extreme natural disasters as well as health-related crisis like COVID-19 pandemic are increasingly becoming enormous barriers for social and economic development around the world and in BiH, while vulnerable children and families are disproportionately facing the greatest threats. Therefore, we need to anticipate better, prevent more and respond with a greater effectiveness, coordination and multisectoral partnerships.  Through Joint UN Swiss DRR Programme, UNICEF along with our partners, supports building resilience of children and families through an integrated approach through  social sectors as important stakeholders in DRR planning and implementation.  Local governments and service providers are empowered to act on prevention  and ensure not only in crisis  response but also how to bounce back better  through shock-responsive social and child protection, quality and continuous education and safe school environments as well as access to nutritious food, breastfeeding and immunization.

This joint programme is a trail blazer in integrating crisis preparedness into local plans to address shocks and crisis in a sustainable manner in BiH”, said Dr. Rownak Khan, UNICEF Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

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