EDITORIAL- Disrupted education
Apart from endangering livelihoods, the continuing unrest of Taal Volcano is causing serious disruption to another aspect of life within the danger zone: children’s education.
Several towns and cities in Batangas are on lockdown. Volcanologists are warning that the worst is yet to come, but cannot say with certainty when this cataclysm might happen. The wait could last days, weeks or even months, and it could disrupt lesson schedules so seriously that the affected children might be set back by an entire school year.
Department of Education officials are reportedly studying if special classes can be held in relocation areas around Taal, to minimize the disruption. This highlights the problem of using public schools as evacuation centers during calamities. Naturally, even children in safe areas become affected when their classrooms and other school facilities are used to house evacuees.
The use of public schools as emergency shelters poses no problem during short-term calamities. But sometimes the need for emergency housing becomes prolonged, such as during Super Typhoon Yolanda and the siege of Marawi City.
In a country visited regularly by natural disasters, policy makers should consider the provision of facilities whose principal function is to serve as evacuation centers. Such facilities can be designed to serve as multipurpose centers when there are no disasters. They can be used for recreational activities and community meetings, for example, or for showcasing livelihood products, or for skills training programs sponsored by the local government.
One of the reasons often cited by people in their reluctance to leave their homes during disasters is the inadequacy of facilities in makeshift evacuation centers. The permanent evacuation facilities can address such concerns – through the provision of sufficient water and sanitation facilities, healthy ventilation, telecommunications connectivity or at least charging stations for mobile phones, and readiness to quickly obtain the supplies needed for emergency medical aid and food.
The centers can be designed to provide a modicum of privacy. As manifested in the situation around Taal, evacuation is also hampered when people are forced to leave their pets and livestock behind.
The permanent evacuation centers can address all these needs. With their availability, the disruption of children’s formal education can also be minimized.