In Bangladesh, young stu­dents pro­tect fam­i­lies from floods

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KURIGRAM:

Bangladeshi teacher Mon­ju­rul Is­lam was talk­ing to his class of 10-year-olds about how the planet is heat­ing up, when Mosam­mat Fer­dousi stood up and asked: “We are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing heavy floods in the last few years - is this linked to cli­mate change?” Is­lam told his pupils cli­mate change “might be a rea­son”, adding sci­en­tists be­lieve the coun­try’s in­creas­ingly fre­quent floods and light­ning strikes could be linked to global warm­ing.

“Most of my stu­dents know about cli­mate change, its im­pacts and what they should do,” said Is­lam, head teacher at Char Bazra Ut­tarpara Pri­mary School in Bozra vil­lage, in the north­ern dis­trict of Kurigram. Fer­dousi said she and her class­mates had learned “we need to plant lots of trees” to com­bat cli­mate change.

Their school is near the Teesta River, and dur­ing the mon­soon sea­son which lasts from June to De­cem­ber, it goes un­der wa­ter. River bank ero­sion is also a big prob­lem here, and teach­ers fear their school might dis­ap­pear into the river some day. Ev­ery year, hun­dreds of schools in Kurigram dis­trict are in­un­dated. In Au­gust, around 250 pri­mary schools were closed for more than two weeks due to flood­ing. “Dur­ing mon­soon, we need to shift the school to nearby high land,” Is­lam said. “As this is a flood-prone area, we also teach stu­dents what to do dur­ing a flood,” he added.

In the syl­labus

In Bangladesh, both the gov­ern­ment and aid groups are work­ing in schools to ed­u­cate stu­dents about dis­as­ters and cli­mate change. The Na­tional Cur­ricu­lum and Text­book Board has in­cluded cli­mate change and dis­as­ters in the school syl­labus since 2013. There are chap­ters on cli­mate change and dis­as­ters in the books used by chil­dren aged be­tween 10 and 15, in classes five to 10.

In ad­di­tion, some hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies run dis­as­ter man­age­ment pro­grams in schools. In­ter­na­tional char­ity Save the Chil­dren, for ex­am­ple, is lead­ing such a project in three dis­as­ter-prone ar­eas, funded by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion and as­sisted by lo­cal NGO Rang­pur Di­na­jpur Ru­ral Ser­vice. It is be­ing im­ple­mented in 50 schools cov­er­ing some 4,600 pupils, in­clud­ing Char Bazra Ut­tarpara Pri­mary. “Stu­dents and their guardians are very en­thu­si­as­tic about learn­ing dis­as­ter man­age­ment as they ben­e­fit from it in any ma­jor dis­as­ter,” said project tech­ni­cal of­fi­cer KM Alam­gir Hossen.

Ev­ery year, thou­sands of Bangladeshi schools are af­fected by floods. This Au­gust alone, more than 1,000 pri­mary schools were flooded in north­ern and cen­tral re­gions of the low-ly­ing na­tion. At Char Bazra Ut­tarpara Pri­mary School, Class Three teacher Khadiza Begum has taught her stu­dents what to do when flood­ing hits. She asked them if they would drink flood­wa­ter.

“No, Madam,” the whole class chanted. “Flood wa­ter can cause di­ar­rhoea,” one stu­dent replied. Many posters in the school give prac­ti­cal in­struc­tions on how to act dur­ing floods, in the lo­cal lan­guage, in­clud­ing ad­vice to stay away from elec­tric­ity poles, find a safe place to go in ad­vance, and store books up high. Is­lam told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion the school also con­ducts drills, where teach­ers show stu­dents how to per­form first aid on those in­jured in floods or earth­quakes.

Com­mu­nity ben­e­fit

Class Five stu­dent Tan­jila Akhter said chil­dren pass on the in­for­ma­tion to their par­ents and neigh­bors. “Most of my neigh­bors think I know a lot about floods and other such things, as they get ben­e­fit from me,” she said. Amina Begum, 35, whose daugh­ter stud­ies at the school, said she had learned a lot from her child.

“We ex­pe­ri­ence floods ev­ery year. In the past, we did not have a plan for floods be­fore­hand, but af­ter my daugh­ter told me we should have one, now we work out ear­lier where we will take shel­ter dur­ing floods, and how to take care of our es­sen­tial pos­ses­sions and live­stock,” she said. “Our loss due to floods is in­signif­i­cant com­pared to pre­vi­ous years,” she added.

Ja­hangir Alam, a com­mu­nity leader and mem­ber of the school man­age­ment com­mit­tee, said the whole vil­lage is gain­ing from the school’s dis­as­ter man­age­ment pro­gram. “Chil­dren are change agents. When they tell their par­ents about what they have to do dur­ing a flood, their par­ents pay heed to the warn­ings,” he said. —Reuters

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