By OUR STAFF REPORTER
DEHRADUN, 22 Jan: A leading not-for-profit organisation has partnered with the Government of Uttarakhand to introduce a pioneering school safety programme in 100 Government schools across Dehradun and Haridwar. First introduced in 50 Delhi government schools in 2017, the programme brings a tailor- made approach to address the unique safety-related issues of each school or location, involving structural assessment of schools by engineers and architects, evaluation of risk perception, and examination of preparedness in the face of any natural or manmade disaster. Thereafter, experts will work closely with children, schools, and communities to train them in disaster-preparedness and risk reduction. This is done through interactive sessions, mock drills, peer-to-peer learning, and structural and non-structural mitigation of risks. Speaking at a function organised in this regard, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said, “Children are our future citizens and it is our prerogative to provide them with a safe learning environment. This disaster risk reduction programme resonates with our state government’s recent call to corporates and NGOs to take ownership of schools, and help improve the quality of infrastructure and education. We can ensure safety with the help of awareness. It is a proved significant tool towards the safety of children. It is important to make the stakeholders aware of their rights as well as information that can help them become risk prepared. We have planned to build wooden buildings for schools in Uttarakhand to save our children from hazards and risks; it will be economical as well.” A baseline study conducted in Dehradun and Haridwar helped identify infrastructure vulnerabilities, environmental risks, and day- to-day stresses faced by children. The study also sought to evaluate risk perceptions among children and parents. Per the study: 71% children walk to school unaccompanied; 30% children fear animal attacks, which emerges as the highest perceived risk; 25% fear road accidents; 49% of children are at risk from landslides either on the commute to school or in the school compound; 40% school buildings face high to very high structural risk and need urgent attention; 66% schools do not have safety equipment such as fire extinguishers or call buttons; 77% schools do not have emergency exits or signage pointing to emergency exits. The study showed that one-third of the children have not been exposed to any practical disaster response training, and this is the gap that the program seeks to fill. The programme will empower 31,000 students, 45,000 parents and 700 teachers across 100 Government schools in Haridwar and Dehradun districts to be risk-ready.