Learning About Natural Disasters the Hard Way

Article by Andrea Ayala

While typhoon days typically translate to one or two days off of school for ISM students, when Typhoon Haiyan hit Roxas, Iloilo, classes in the Punta Cogon Elementary School didn’t resume until nearly one month after. Having to return from the evacuation centers to broken homes, in addition to a school where some classrooms were without roofs and others were crushed by palm trees, the children found themselves both physically and psychologically unable to attend school. Some said that they couldn’t return because they had to help their parents rebuild their destroyed homes. Other children commented that they couldn’t continue, because even basic school supplies, such as notebooks and pencil cases, had been misplaced or ruined in the storm.

Furthermore, following Haiyan, the school that Coke built in Estancia doubled as a sturdy evacuation center for those who had lost their homes. While waiting for sustainable protection to be built, the evacuees occupied the higher level classrooms. For this reason, in addition to the time it took to clean up the disarray that remained after the families left, the Grade 5 and 6 students were unable to attend class for three weeks.P2260718

In the Estancia Central Elementary School, where ISM’s funds are being directed, Grade 1 students had to be moved to a makeshift outdoor classroom at the beginning of January, while the building they had previously been located was being reconstructed. Although she enjoys teaching the children, first grade teacher assistant Naddel Tanlawan says that she doesn’t feel comfortable teaching in this outdoor area because “there are many distractions outside, and it is very noisy.”

In order to make up for the missed classes in the aftermath of the typhoon, the elementary school students were required to attend 7 consecutive weeks of Saturday classes, which will end during the first week of March. As aid shifts from relief to recovery, organizations like UNICEF have started focusing on how they can teach students about the causes and implications of natural disasters, such as Haiyan, so that children can be prepared for such calamities in the future.


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