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Education Disrupted: Disaster Impacts on Education in the Asia Pacific region in 2015

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Each year disasters have a major impact on children, youth and education systems. In the disaster-prone region of the Asia Pacific, around 200 million children per year will have their lives severely disrupted by disasters in the coming decades. Every child has a right to a quality education, yet across the region many children are unable to realise this right due to the impact of these disasters. Educational inequities are made worse because of schools being damaged or destroyed (due to poor site selection, design, or construction), schools being used as evacuation centres, and because disaster risk reduction (DRR) policies are not being adequately resourced or prioritised through different levels of governments and to the community level. Being unable to realise this right puts children at risk of exploitation and violence, and contributes towards a lack of economic participation.

Furthermore, if education is supported before, during and after a disaster it can save lives, protect children and benefit whole communities and countries. Schools can have a catalytic effect on strengthening humanitarian effectiveness, reducing vulnerabilities and supporting risk mitigation for future hazards. Additionally, while the cost of education in emergencies interventions can be high, such costs can be minimised with investment to ensure that national education systems are less vulnerable, and local schools are better prepared to bounce back from crisis and return children to learning as soon as possible.

This report seeks to shine a light on the continuing impact that disasters have on education by profiling five specific events that struck the Asia-Pacific region in 2015 – the earthquakes in Nepal, floods in Indonesia and Myanmar, Typhoon Koppu in the Philippines, and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Some of the profiles are of large disasters such as that in Nepal, while others are recurring disasters that force children out of school on an annual or semi-annual basis, such as the typhoons in the Philippines or floods in Indonesia. Many of these are not identified as major disasters by any national or international declaration. The country profiles reveal that:

• Regardless of the size of the disaster, education was still disrupted. In countries such as Nepal where the earthquakes caused large-scale disruption, many children lost months of education. In Indonesia or the Philippines where the disaster was much smaller in scale, children were generally out of school for shorter periods of time.

However, countries such as Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar often experience similar disasters every year and thus children regularly lose school days, thus compounding the negative impact on their education over their whole school experience.

• Pre-existing challenges with school enrolment, alongside the damage to education infrastructure, often leave many children in need of critical education support to help ensure their longer-term development.

• Education is generally not prioritised in a disaster response, and reconstruction or rehabilitation of damaged schools is often belated. Almost a year after the earthquakes in Nepal and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, children are still being taught in temporary learning centres that were meant for use for weeks or months, not years.

• There are significant gaps in information from the education sector on both the short- and long-term impact disasters have on education. A lack of official data collection and analysis on the number of children and schools affected by disasters is reported as often inhibiting coordination amongst response agencies, government bodies and community organisations, and on the effectiveness of the education response as a whole.

• The differing levels of both policy commitments and actual implementation of DRR in the education sector at all levels, and the limited resources available to ensure the construction of safe schools, made a significant difference to the negative impact the disasters had on educational continuity across the five profiled countries.

A positive example of DRR in education reducing the impact of disasters on education was with Typhoon Koppu in the Philippines where fewer children were forced out of school for substantial periods due to the emphasis on integrating DRR into education from the national level all the way to the school and community level.

There were clear differences between countries and within the different districts affected by the disasters due to the resources and capacity available at the local level Ministry of Education (MoE) to ensure risks were reduced prior to the disaster occurring, and education was prioritised in the disaster response.

Countries such as Indonesia and Myanmar that experience small-scale flooding each year struggle to receive sufficient funding to ensure wide-spread safe school construction; capacity building of teachers, local government staff and community members in DRR; and resilience education of students to ensure that they have greater awareness of the risks and potential impacts of disasters coupled with basic training on what to do during a disaster prior to a disaster occurring.

• Standardisation is often lacking across national and sub-national levels in the planning and development of comprehensive school safety policies and DRR-related strategies, initiatives and plans that exist in the education sector.

The country profiles also demonstrated that the need to mitigate the wide range of risks to children’s safety and survival in school, and threats to educational continuity, requires a pro-active approach. Safeguarding education requires a thorough analysis of known and expected hazards and risks, action to reduce these, and planning for educational continuity. The consistent provision of safe and quality education is vital to the success of sustainable development objectives, and significantly speeds recovery from shocks and stresses.

As part of its regional initiative “Education Safe from Disasters”, Save the Children’s ambition is for zero children killed or injured in schools and zero days of schooling lost when a disaster strikes in Asia and the Pacific. However, we cannot achieve this without increased prioritisation, funding and focus on understanding the impacts of disasters on education, risk reduction, preparedness and response for the education sector from humanitarian and development agencies, donors, national governments and regional bodies. To achieve this goal and ensure communities and countries both benefit from the provision of a safe and quality education for all children, we recommend:

National Governments

• Become a Safe School leader by signing onto the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools in support of the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

• Ensure policy and legal frameworks for a comprehensive approach to disaster risk reduction in the education sector are in place. Such frameworks are an important foundation for integrating risk reduction and resilience into education sector strategies, policies and plans.

• Identify national priorities for investment and support for disaster risk reduction in the education sector.

• Adopt an evidence-based child-centred approach to education sector risk reduction, putting children’s safety and wellbeing at the centre of national, sub-national and local levels efforts.

• Establish organisational arrangements for leadership and coordination for risk reduction and resilience including trained and supported focal points at all levels of administration and at school-community level.

• Ensure the Education Information Management Systems (EIMS) are systematically recording data on the impact of disasters on education for use in risk reduction and response planning.

• Investigate and document the short- and long-term impacts of disasters on primary and secondary education. Such studies can identify policy, implementation, data and knowledge gaps that will provide an evidence base to inform program and advocacy strategies, as well as seeking to put some more comprehensive numbers behind the stories of the impacts of disasters.


• Financially invest in and politically commit to support “Education Cannot Wait: the Fund for Education in Emergencies”. This fund aims to unite global and national actors to generate the shared political, operational and financial commitment needed to meet the education needs of the millions of children and young people affected by crises. The platform seeks to inspire political commitment, generate and disburse new funding, strengthen planning and response, increase capacity and improve accountability.
It has the potential to be the game-changer that is needed to tackle the chronic problem of underresourcing of education in humanitarian crises.

• Increase investment in understanding risks, disaster risk reduction, and response-preparedness in the education sector. The risks to children’s education will be greatly reduced if national education systems are able to take a comprehensive approach to ensure safe school facilities, school disaster management (including educational continuity planning) and risk reduction and resilience education.

Regional and Global Platforms

• Articulate goals, commitments and collaborate initiatives for comprehensive school safety at the regional level.

• Support national governments’ capacity-building, knowledge exchange and technical expertise, and promote sustainable, scalable and quality-tested approaches, and standardised monitoring across countries.

Humanitarian and Development Partners

• Support the implementation of nationally defined priorities for risk reduction in the education sector.

• Collect and share evidence-base approaches to risk reduction in education sector programming.

• Engage in national, regional and international coordination mechanisms to avoid duplication of efforts or wasteful development of tools and materials which have been developed and tested by other partners.