Why introduce DISASTER MANAGEMENT in school education

Dear Dr Samoon,

Over the past years, there have been several occasions when I championed for introduction of disaster management as a separate subject in school education. Many others are doing it for a greater cause. The subject is there at the PG level with the endless efforts of the people from the Department of Geography, University of Kashmir. It is a compulsory skills-based subject at the UG level with the constant efforts of Mr Talat Parvez Rohella, Commissioner Secretary, Higher Education Department. The subject has gained momentum as it rolled down the Zabarwan hills – initiated by University of Kashmir.

I have learnt from my parents and teachers about your contribution to J&K in different capacities, and particularly in education. Today I am witnessing all by myself. It isn’t hard to guess that you’re mulling to introduce new skill and job-oriented subjects in school education, and disaster management can be one among them, sine qua non.

Disaster research tells us that there is a global increase in frequency and intensity of disasters each year. There are huge tangible and intangible losses. The loss of lives predominantly occurs in poor and developing countries, regions home to the most vulnerable people. Jammu and Kashmir is exposed to multiple hazards: geophysical and hydro-meteorological i.e., earthquakes, floods, landslides, fires, and avalanches. The historical data on disasters reveals that the area has remained in the grip of an uninterrupted cycle of disasters, including continuing conflict. The issue of global climate change is showing clear impacts and consequences include an increase in hydro-meteorological disasters.

Disaster Management is new to schools and universities in India. There are a few universities in India which have introduced a masters and doctorate programme in Disaster Management. Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai is leading by example in research and development in disaster studies.

University of Kashmir is doing the similar thing through the Department of Geography at local level with national and international collaborations. In line with their expansion programme, the Department of Geography has been able to cultivate hundreds of disaster managers ready to serve. The department has upgraded its curriculum so often to keep pace with the innovation and new technologies, including for societal needs.

‘A Textbook on Economics & Disaster Management’, a module of Social Studies divided into two parts – Economics and Disaster Management – published by the Jammu and Kashmir State Board of School Education for class 10th to impart disaster risk knowledge is limited in scope. It may be sufficient for a class 10th student but we need to put some effort and develop syllabi and books for other classes – 11th and 12th in particular with a focus on fundamentals of disaster risk management, indigenous knowledge and social innovation. NCERT and CBSE have done it in the past and continue to do so, we should take it further. What we can’t afford right now is wait for others to cook for us; time to self-cook. Yes, we can!

The subject of disaster management is taught by teachers who are not trained in DM is a new trend. This practice needs to be eliminated now. Since there are resource persons available with first-hand knowledge and experience, why not recruit them?

Disaster risk management is our individual as well as collective responsibility; it is the role and responsibility of government to take right decisions at right time.

Sir, I know your decision alone can’t bring all the change. It needs sustained efforts from all the stakeholders; you, us, and others need to join forces to make the best things happen. But with the introduction of disaster management in school education as a separate subject we will strengthen the efforts that improve our understanding of connections between disaster risk, knowledge and learning, and with the availability of trained resource persons to teach at school level we will raise a disaster conscious society and promote a culture of disaster resilience – it will show the way.

`It is a good initiative. Good for J&K. Good for us. Bad for disasters. So why should we not introduce it now?

(Gowhar Naz is a Ph.D. Scholar in Disaster Management at the Department of Geography, University of Kashmir)