08/09/2012 – This is an unusual sight in Tbilisi’s Public School nr 47 in the centre of the Georgian capital: 20 boys and girls aged between 13 and 16 years share the school benches with Australian and Canadian representatives of UNECE (UN Economic Commission for Europe) and the Georgian Ministry of Environment Protection.
Soso, Lasha, Daki, Natia and the others have come from 8 schools from 7 different regions of Georgia and the capital city, Tbilisi. These schools were the first to integrate disaster risk reduction in the official school curriculum. This integration, which has been put in place with the training of teachers and the development of school-books, is the big achievement of a project led by UNICEF and funded by ECHO under its disaster risk reduction programme DIPECHO. ‘Children are not only among the most vulnerable in case disaster strikes ‘ explains Ketevan Lomsadze, who is based in Tbilisi for ECHO, ‘but they are also excellent vectors to reach their parents and wider families in order to create awareness and to launch changes in behaviour. That’s why DIPECHO in Georgia worked together with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education to make sure disaster risk reduction becomes an integral part of the official school curriculum’.
And although this sounds so technical when listening to the expert, when presented by Soso and the other children to the UNECE representatives, disaster risk reduction gets a different flavour. There is an educational game developed by UNICEF called ‘Riskland‘, art exhibitions and an educational kit called ‘Let’s Learn to Prevent Disasters’. The boys and girls talk of tree-planting and river-bank- cleaning days. But maybe UNICEF and ECHO’s biggest achievement beyond the curriculum is that these young people get hooked by the issues and committed to changing practices which goes far beyond classic homework. Soso Mumladze, from Georgia’s south-central village of Atskuri for example, became so interested in disaster risk reduction and environmental protection that he created his blog to actively discuss and promote these issues with his peers. Soso is also recently started operating an established group on Facebook, joined by all 8 schools under the DIPECHO programme. It will feature all the key events, photos, videos and discussions on activities in disaster risk reduction (DIPECHO schools) .
‘Once people, whatever they age, take ownership of the projects which ECHO and its partners launch, then we have made a difference’ says Lomsadze.
by Heinke Veit,
Regional Information Officer in Amman