The ASEAN Disaster Information Network (ADInet), run by the AHA Centre, reported that a total of 893 disasters in ASEAN countries have been reported between 3 January 2012 and 16 July 2017. In Indonesia alone, in 2019, the Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Office (BNPB) shared that Indonesia experienced 3,712 disasters, ranging from forest fires, floods, landslide, drought, high tide, and volcanic eruption that claimed 477 lives and rendered homeless 6.7 million people. The disasters caused more than 2000 public facilities including schools to cease their services (Kompas, 2019). MOEC Indonesia shared that at least 290 schools were affected (201 flooded and 89 inaccessible), while 12 schools in Lebak Banten, West Java, were totally damaged (Tempo, 2020).
Collaboration with civil society organisations to ensure school safe from disaster risks is really essential. They have their local capacity and know better the local context. On the last day in 2019, I got to sit down with one of those school safety activists in Indonesia, Muhammad Andrianto, or “Andri” as his friends call him and listen to his experience in building community and school capacity in Indonesia. He too was one of those 2019 ASEAN School Safety Champions who have worked closely with schools and community in putting up a disaster management procedure at school and in the community.
Hi Mas Andri, how did you come into safe school programme and disaster risk reduction? What motivated you?
I started off young when I was in Senior High School in Jogjakarta. Back then, in 1994, Jogjakarta had this volcanic eruption and my school friends and I initiated a small-scale response to those affected. In 2006, earthquake struck the province and I worked for a CSO, becoming professionally involved in emergency response and focusing on community-based disaster risk reduction which interlinked with school safety.
Since then, I joined a locally-based organisation, KYPA, which partnered up with Plan International, initiating school-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) project in Central Java and East Nusa Tenggara. What motivated me to keep working in this sector is my true calling to be in this field, working with colleagues and friends who share the same vision. There has yet to be full awareness of community of the hazards and risks surrounding them.
So, you experienced a shift from emergency response to school-based DRR. How did you develop your capacity to organize such an initiative?
I basically received a capacity building from Plan International which organized training for CSO partners and introduced the three pillar concept of comprehensive school safety framework. Such a concept used to be called Pengurangan Resiko Bencana Berbasis Sekolah (school-based DRR), changed to Sekolah Siaga Bencana (disaster-prepared schools) and then came to CSSF finally. The old concept promoted five components: safe site selection, safe school facility, safe school design, school disaster management, and resilience and DRR education.
What drove the safe school initiative to come about?
As some areas are prone to disasters, the trigger really came from the community. The regulation on disaster management in the country only was released in 2007 through the Regulation No 24/2007, no NDMO and local disaster management agencies were established. As we had a number of CSOs involved in disaster risk reduction, government put the capacity building into their agenda and it supports the school-based DRR programme. Really, when there is a commitment, school can develop network to initiate a collaboration with other stakeholders – the school infrastructure stands there but non-structural development of school was lacking. Since 2015, NDMO started supporting the implementation of safe school and MOE and other stakeholders established the National Secretariat for Safer School that is now being established in different provinces and districts. We advocated decision-makers to issue a Gubernatorial Decree on “Education Unit Safe from Disaster” or safe school in Jogjakarta and other provinces.
Non-governmental groups also initiated different initiatives, including capacity building for volunteers who want to learn further on school safety. The volunteers come from universities, CSOs, and freelancers.
How important is it to advocate for a release of policy relevant to school safety?
In Jogjakarta for example, what we really want to promote is a mechanism or directive based on which school can be a subject to implement their safe school programme. We have so many schools but technical resources are very limited. Most of the times, safe school programmes are implemented in an area where NGOs are working in. We would like schools to be pro-active in identifying the risks and prioritizing such activities.
I heard that there is this initiative called “National Facilitators of Safe Schools” coined by NDMO. Can you explore a bit more on this?
NDMO initiated the National Facilitators for Safe Schools who can help build the capacity of local actors, teachers, and students to implement safe school. This links up with provincial and district Education Offices but the number is just a few currently, and not able to reach out all provinces in Indonesia as we don’t have enough human resources. The approach is to develop the capacity of local actors/CSOs.
In your opinion, what seems to be the challenge to promote safe school in Indonesia?
First and foremost, programme brought in sometimes spoils community’s own capacity while the communication and information dissemination of disaster risks do not run well. We need innovations to promote it: by having proper documentation of school safety specifically for that area, child-friendly methods that internalize DRR knowledge in a fun way such as: interviews done by children/students with community leaders and elderly who have memories on disasters in the past, traditional games that girls and boys can participate in: board games, snake and ladder, domino, etc. Those will automatically invite children participation as we need to consult with them and experiment all the innovations with them. Currently safe school actors are developing a practical guide to implement safe school for teachers and students in Jogjakarta.
Given the complexities affecting safe school efforts such as: climate change, violence, gender and disability issues, how do you tackle these issue in your programming?
Some are cross-cutting issues and we integrate such consideration from the very beginning through capacity building, games, establishment of standard operating procedures, and the implementation.
Do you have experience to share that shows the positive impact of your safe school programme?
As mentioned, I am one of the national facilitators. In 2018, I was assigned to build the capacity of a school in Palu. Palu is one of the areas highly-prone to earthquake and tsunami as disaster events occurred in the past. Children trained on developing their standard operating procedure (SOPs) and evacuation. The school gate faces the ocean and based on their risk identification, they needed to create an exit on the other side of the school. Therefore, the school finally made another exit, directed to higher ground.
On the day when earthquake and tsunami occurred in September, a group of students was playing volley ball and all of sudden earthquake happened, one of them shouted the warning ‘earthquake!!” and the whole group evacuated to the exit directed to the higher ground. All of them were saved while the school was badly inundated and damaged by the disasters.
That proved that disaster education is really important and such a story must be told over again that education on DRR saves lives, so people shall not forget. The disasters happened one day after we drew our evacuation plan and I actually planned to come back to conduct the simulation drill in the following month.
Where there is commitment, there is nothing stopping us, collaboration and partnership should be promoted to enable the programme to run.
I wrapped up our discussion with his view on ASEAN Safe Schools Initiative. He expressed that this initiative can facilitate sharing and learning on sound practices and real impacts of safe school programme and help inspire similar initiatives in other areas. Such can instill confidence in those people working with community to stay on the track and really save lives.
By Renar Berandi