Disaster Resilient Education System – From Risk to Recovery

November - December 2021

Neha Jain

Neha Jain is a 17-year-old passionate social activist, content creator and civil service aspirant who envisions a safe, empowered and inclusive society. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Applied Psychology at Gargi College, Delhi University. She currently works as the Youth Co-Content Creator at UNICEF INDIA. She has been associated with many organisations including NINE IS MINE, CRY and GOONJ, amongst others, while advocating for child rights and empowerment, climate action, health. From teaching the last child and coming on the ground for COVID relief to raising funds, participating in awareness campaigns/conferences and leading social projects in partnership with government stakeholders and civil society, she continues to leave no stone unturned to bring a positive change in society.

Human-induced disasters like COVID-19 have been like this sudden, unsafe and unexpected dive in the sky full of uncertainties, uncontrollable chaos and an adrenaline overload. Such calamities have a massive impact on children, youth and the education system. While the education system has been disrupted by disasters, it is also a crucial part of the solution. It acts as our parachute, a lifesaver, as we prepare for a smooth landing in the post-pandemic world.

Let us begin unlocking some answers as we strive to reimagine, recreate and restore a bright future.

Why do we need a disaster-resilient education system for the post-pandemic world?

It is imperative to understand that quality education can provide life-saving information and practical skills that protect children and youth, in, during, and after emergencies.

Disasters are rapidly producing further disasters to become more complex and deadly, but amidst these, a strong education system has the potential to become that ray of hope which helps us move from darkness to possibility, from pandemic to panacea and from risk to recovery.

Therefore, the inclusion of disaster risk reduction component in the education system is necessary not only to increase the level of preparedness and protection of students and their communities but to allow the learners affected by it to continue their education, and out of school children, who are perhaps marginalised, also get access to learning both during and after emergencies.

Who plays an important role in making education disaster-resilient?

Each of us has a unique role to play, while the following form the core pillars of change as we reimagine school education in the post-COVID-19 world.

  • Government
  • Educators
  • Civil Society
  • Youth
  • Media (considering the present times)
  • Parents

How could each of these stakeholders implement effective solutions to bridge existing learning crises and inculcate disaster preparedness via education?

Is re-envisioning of education viable without the capacity building of the actors and institutions involved?

How can we build disaster-resilient education?

At one level, primarily, we need to cope with disruption in the education system caused in context to COVID-19.

At another level, we need to discuss how to strengthen our education system to prevent such disasters in future.

From the management of schools including school buildings, grounds and policies to framing an effective curriculum covering content, learning and teaching, it is essential to infuse disaster-risk reduction practices. A practical, experiential framework must be crafted in such a way that it empowers all people and especially motivates the youth to take action.

What should be the outcome of a disaster risk reduction included curriculum?

To reimagine an education framework:

  • where we understand that our simple lifestyle choices like a cycle over a car, coolers over ACs, reusing electronic waste and upcycling our clothes make a difference to a world struck by hazards like climate change, global warming and ozone depletion.
  • where we know how to question government and hold it accountable for making more investments, effective policies and stronger infrastructure, while we may stay in a country like India exposed to disasters ranging from terrorism to malnutrition.
  • where we are aware of things from local drainage channels, backup food and water supplies, components of emergency kits and first-aid to government relief schemes as we deal with State-specific disasters like Assam Floods, Gujarat Drought, Uttarakhand Landslides or the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
  • where we know when to stop burning crackers and how to burn the stubble to counter pollution in a city like Delhi
  • where we know simple preventive measures like switching off the cylinder knob to learning how to use fire extinguishers and knowing important helpline numbers, while we try to prevent a cylinder explosion or a fire accident at our schools and homes.
  • where we do not feel helpless but know simple life-saving techniques like CPR(Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) and proning position when individuals have low-flow oxygen, especially during the second disastrous wave of the pandemic.

It is true that from individual to community, city, State, national and global level, we are at risk of being surrounded by disasters of varying degrees. Hence, Max Mayfield, former Director of the National Hurricane Center, USA, very rightly said, “Preparation through education is far better than learning through tragedy.”

I have also learnt these things in many practical ways when I went on-ground in an attempt to, reduce, if not end, the suffering of those who faced joblessness, food scarcity and even oxygen, and when I worked to manage COVID-19 risks by being a Vaccine Buddy and empowering people who were working as domestic help, or those working in several construction sites and the slums.

It is high time that we lead the world towards a transformed education system that would not only ensure that education and awareness sustain us in times of disaster but its wholesomeness would also ensure that we prevent and overcome any such fatal disaster in future.

Here is a call to action to make the world safer, healthier and happier for every human being, and the time to act is now or never!

– To know more about Neha and the work she has been engaged in so far, please check:


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