There is growing recognition within the disaster response community that education and the restoration of education services following a crisis is a critical component of any response plan. Safe educational opportunities and child-friendly spaces can be life sustaining and provide physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection to children.

  • In fall 2019, about 56.6 million students will attend elementary and secondary schools, including 50.8 million students in public schools and 5.8 million in private schools.
  • Schools are safe spaces for children during and following a disaster event, and provide:
    • A sense of normalcy and protection against harm;
    • A place for the delivery of other vital services to children and their families;
    • A venue for coordination between multiple sectors to reach medium and long-term recovery goals;
  • Recent experiences with natural disasters, in-school violence, acts of terrorism, and the threat of pandemic flu and diseases demonstrate the need for schools to be prepared for all-hazard crisis events;
  • Children often spread learning to their families and communities about preventing disasters and managing risks – educating a child is also educating a family;
  • The time after a disaster provides a unique opportunity for communities to assess infrastructure risks and rebuild schools in a better way;
  • It is important to recognize that teachers may also be experiencing complex practical, social and emotional challenges in the wake of a disaster;
  • Disasters may interrupt, preclude or create extensive challenges for students with regard to end of term exams or other major testing;
  • Many school districts do not have the capacity to access grant funds or effectively use available monies along with balancing the need to plan, acquire emergency equipment and staff training.

Watch the UNESCO Education for Disaster Preparedness video.

Innovative Practices

Philanthropic organizations can support education restoration by:

  • Fully assessing infrastructure risks and rebuilding schools to be disaster resistant and safe for students and community members in future disasters.
  • Providing support for students and teachers to complete end of term exams or other major testing.
  • Training teachers in psychosocial support for children to make classroom environments as supportive as possible.
  • Funders should support school access to national, state and local grants for emergency-management planning.

Key Takeaways

  1. Schools are considered safe havens for children.
  2. Children spend a large part of their time in school, so whether a disaster occurs before, during or after school hours, the school district plays an important role in the response and unfolding of events following a disaster.
  3. Schools play a central role in disaster management by teaching children risk reduction and preparedness.
  4. Pay attention to the needs of teachers as education services are restored as they will likely be experiencing both personal and professional challenges following a disaster.