The chaos that followed the recent floods brought into sharp focus, the unpreparedness of Chennaiites to deal with disasters. Natarajan Raman, Convenor of Action of 2020, a group of NGOs working together to achieve former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s vision of building a strong India by 2020, said that this is what inspired him to ensure that future generations are equipped to deal with such situations better. Raman, has worked out a plan along with Hari Balaji VR, National Consultant for Disaster Management, to conduct disaster management education sessions across all Corporation Schools, from next week onwards.
Raman says, “There is no formal disaster management education being imparted. We are planning to start an interactive session to ensure disaster preparedness among students. We initially wanted three hours or so, for these sessions. But the schools were sceptical as they had just reopened and had a lot of syllabus to cover. They, however, were ready to give us an hour. We are planning to start with the teachers and make them understand the importance of such a session.”
Raman says the sessions will be conducted across all Corporation schools in Chennai. “We want to do this in a phased manner, over a period of this academic year. We have close to 25 volunteers, who are interested and will be trained. We want to get permission from the Education department and the Corporation, to ensure that a directive goes to all the schools,” explains this software professional, who is also an activist.
Hari Balaji, a disaster management expert, says it is important to reinforce disaster preparedness training. “When it comes to disaster management, pre-disaster phase is very important where people know how to act during a calamity, as well as maintain their emotional health. Every region is prone to disaster and we train people to be prepared to deal with it. We use role play, group activities and simulation to make students understand more about disaster management, give them training and also send resource material to their parents, so the entire family is aware. These sessions need to be conducted regularly, else lethargy sets in. When we conducted such sessions in the past, many students were interested and joined us for free training over the weekends,” he says, advocating a need to include disaster management education in the syllabus. ‘Mugaveri’ Ramesh, who is helping Raman and his team get the requisite permissions, is confident that they will soon get the nod to proceed. “We met the Mayor on Thursday and he gave us a go ahead. We also met the Corporation and education department officials, who asked us for some more details. I think by Monday, we will surely get the permission to launch these sessions,” he says.
Mr. Vikram Kapur, Commissioner, Corporation of Chennai, says, “It is a good thought but may not be feasible at the end of the current academic year. The decision on syllabus can only be taken by the School Education Board.”