School Safety

Sichuan Earthquake Three Year Special

Cheng Jing
19 May 2011

A UNICEF-supported survey on safety education and preparedness conducted after the earthquake found that nearly half of the schools surveyed had never organized any kind of safety education for their students. In the three years since the earthquake, UNICEF has supported efforts to make schools in the earthquake zone and throughout the country more resilient and better prepared in the face of future disasters.

A safety drill in one of UNICEF-supported schools in Xihe County, Gansu Province.

In September 2008, on the first day of the new school year after the earthquake, China Central Television (CCTV) aired a television programme on disaster prevention, readiness and response. The groundbreaking programme, which was produced with technical support and expertise from UNICEF, was made required viewing for all students by the Ministry of Education.
Since then, UNICEF has, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, helped to develop and rollout a national training programme on safety education and management. UNICEF supported the development of educational materials on emergency preparedness and school safety, which have been distributed to schools throughout the earthquake zone.

Today, school safety has been successfully integrated into the national primary school curriculum, helping to reduce the vulnerability of children all around the country. Classroom instruction has been complemented with school safety mapping, evacuation drills and other exercises that help to keep children safe.

According to Zeng Jialin, a fifth-grade student at Leigu Central Primary School in Beichuan County, many rounds of training on safety education, including fire safety and earthquake preparedness, have been conducted at her school. Evacuation drills have been conducted frequently, and Jialin and her classmates all know where the emergency exits in their newly built school building are.

In Beichuan County's Yongchang Primary School, even the youngest students have good basic knowledge of safety. “In the event of fire, my classmates and I will evacuate the building and

head for the playground,” said 8-year-old Zhang Zhengyi, a second-grade student, pointing at the nearest emergency exit. According to Zhengyi, just one week ago, the school had conducted a fire drill.

UNICEF has also supported the development and rollout of an online training programme and certification process to help teachers and principals implement safety procedures to better prepare for and respond to emergencies. The training, which was initially introduced in 45 high-risk counties in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces, was very positively received, with more than 80% of participants reporting that they were better prepared to reduce risk and protect students in emergencies.

On the basis of the strong positive feedback, the programme has since been expanded to other schools around the country, an example of how an innovation introduced in the earthquake zone is now being scaled-up to benefit more children. To date, 60,000 teachers and principals from 20 central and western provinces have been trained though the online training model.