Schools: a safe haven for children

The massive displacement of islands’ populations of Lake Chad to the land areas as a result of Boko Haram-related violence has uprooted 1.3 million of children and placed them at high-risk of separation, abuse, exploitation and recruitment by armed groups. In the Lake Chad region, children who have fled and seek refuge in Chad are now given an opportunity to access education.

In this context, access to a safe school and learning environment often represents a rare opportunity of normalcy and future in the life of these children. A multi-country project in Lake Chad gives both teachers and students the tools to play a central role in securing and protecting that precious environment.

Dolgue Noel.Kousseri School
©UNICEF/2017/Azoura

Mr. Ngarnayal Ami, director of the Bagasola School, realized how vulnerable was his school. “We had no idea of the risks, even us adults. Without being aware, we were in constant danger”. While potential risks have not entirely disappeared, he confesses he feels more at ease, now that students have been trained. “They know how to distinguish between bad and good. They can identify a potential danger and, above all, they will know what to do to avoid it by taking shelter”.

The “Children of Peace” project in the Lake Chad Region, has trained teachers and children in psychosocial support, conflict and disaster risks management strengthening the school’s safety environment by better assessing vulnerabilities and establishing related mitigation measures. Both teachers and children were trained on and accompanied in conducting a vulnerability mapping and the development of preparedness plans. An exercise that have not only helped in raising their awareness on the risks they could face, but even more importantly, increased their capacity and power to identify hazards and school vulnerabilities in and around school and respond safely if facing those risks.

I will be ready to take the right actions if an incident occurs” tells Adam Mbodou, a 14-year-old in Matafo primary school, near Bol and under the “Children of Peace” project. “I learned how to help my teacher evacuate the students and how to protect them from harm’s way. I also know where to seek refuge after an evacuation.”

From reinforcing physical security measures, such as creating a second door as an emergency exit, to the awareness and knowledge of children and teachers alike on adopting the right measures in case of emergencies, the training has also provided basic tools for teachers in supporting recovery of children often affected by the hardship of their everyday life.

This was notably the case for Ms. Aheppa Zenaba, teacher of Grade 4 at the SODELAC school of Bol, who recognized the importance of the training in developing her ability to counsel children. « This little girl was traumatized when she arrived here” she remembers, telling us of the example of one of her school girls whose parents were killed by Boko Haram. “Thanks to the training, I was able to provide her with the support and advice she needed”.

More than 570 teachers have been trained so far on psychosocial support, conflict and disaster risks management, preparing in turn more than 34,000 school children, and bringing a change already recognized by all.

« The training brought a big change for the school, the students and even for the whole community » as summarized by Dolgue Noel, Director of the Kousseri school. « We are more reassured as mothers, to see that our children feel at peace » adds Falmata Mahamat, the president of the educating mother association of the school, who along with 20 others mothers are now playing an active role in supporting the school by educating other parents as well as teaching children about precautionary measures in case of danger.

With the “Children of Peace” project, there has been a before and after, not only for teachers and children in the confine of the school, but far beyond, in the community. Children, teachers, parents, community members must Know, Do, Plan, Prepare in case of danger or potential risk within their school, enabling therefore greater involvement of the community for the safety of their children.

IMG_0987
©UNICEF/2017/Azoura

The « Umbrella » exercise consists in identifying the risks and dangers that could occur in the school and making sure the school stays under the umbrella so that the raindrops (risks and danger) are retained by the umbrella. This technique permits to children to easily assimilate many tips on their safety.

 

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From November 2016 to November 2017, under ECHO-funded “Children of Peace” project, UNICEF piloted the development and implementation of school emergency response plans as well as the training so far of 579 teachers and 34,205 school boys and girls in psychosocial support (PSS) and conflict and disaster risk reduction (CDRR). 23,948 trained children took part in conducting a vulnerability mapping and developing a preparedness plans for CDRR. The initiative aimed at contributing to school’s resilience by supporting preparedness for mitigation of risks identified collaboratively by teachers, children, parents and children of peace focal points in the community. As part of a multi-country effort, the “Children of Peace” project has opened a door for boys and girls, in the Lake Chad Region, giving them access to a safe school and learning environment, thus expanding their opportunities for the future.

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