Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tacloban teachers help pupils get disaster ready

Teachers attend a Disaster Risk Reduction Workshop
© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Joey Reyna

Four teachers from the Kapangian Central School here have made a pledge to ensure that their school is safe as children return this week, and that their pupils are prepared for any emergency.

They made this commitment after recently attending a two-day seminar-workshop on psychosocial support to children, Disaster Risk Reduction and Education in Emergencies. They were among 837 teachers, day-care workers and school staff who recently underwent a training course conducted by UNICEF and partners in the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas in central Philippines.

Joan Young, 37, a sixth grade teacher for the past eight years, said that with her new knowledge and skills learned from the training, she feels confident she can help children cope with stress and trauma. She recounted her helplessness every time her own daughter cried when it rained even weeks after Typhoon Yolanda struck.

"I won't be at a loss anymore should a similar situation arise. I believe I will now be a better mother, and a more responsive teacher," she added.

Psychosocial support for both teachers and students is a key area of intervention for the "Back to Learning in a Safe School" campaign of the Department of Education, which UNICEF and other partners are supporting.

Teachers and day-care workers were trained through psychosocial programmes focusing on how they can support children who have been traumatized.

Felixberto Layson, 47, a fourth grade teacher for last seven years, said it is important to involve the parents and other community members in this programme. "Everyone has a role to play," he added.
Part of the training programme involves working directly with parents-teachers associations to include parents in understanding the special needs of their children in the post-typhoon period.

Felisa Cabillan, 38, a first grade teacher for the past six years, and Donabel Daryl Merro, 43, a fifth grade teacher for last 11 years, share the view that teachers have a big responsibility to impart appropriate learning to their school children to better equip them for the times when emergency and disaster hit. The training gave special focus on life skills, such as health promotion and sanitation and good hygiene practices.

"If we only had this training before Haiyan, our fellow teacher would have been saved,” Ms. Merro said. When the typhoon ripped through the coastal village of San Jose, where their colleague lived with her daughter, both were believed to have been swept away by the storm surge. They remain among the missing residents of this city to this day.

"We are hopeful that we can rise above any calamity," the teachers affirmed.

"It is really up to us teachers to guide and direct our children what to do in emergencies. With the help of parents and other members of the community, we will be better prepared to face future storms," Mr. Layson added.

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