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The educational approach to disasters of natural origin: a necessity for sustainable development

The educational approach to disasters of natural origin: a necessity for sustainable development

By Sergio Torres Zamora

In the period between 1990 and 2000, the world suffered the loss of approximately 700,000 people due to natural disasters. This figure is lower than that registered in the previous decade; However, the number of events, their intensity, and the economic and social damages surpassed the levels observed in the eighties.

In the last three decades, (1970-1990), there was an increase in economic and social losses caused by the action of extreme natural phenomena, which is why in 1989, the United Nations General Assembly declared the decade of 1990 as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), protected by Resolution 44/132. This action is considered the first universal effort in terms of disaster prevention and mitigation; and indicated the growing responsibility of man as a regulator of the level of exposure, ordering and use of the Environment.


The United Nations Community stepped up efforts to increase and improve information, education, and public awareness regarding natural disasters. Systems for prevention, early warning, attention to emergencies, rehabilitation and reconstruction or repair of damage were strengthened. However, despite all the efforts and actions undertaken, in recent years the incidence and intensity of potentially destructive natural phenomena has increased, including droughts, floods, landslides, tornadoes, earthquakes and tropical cyclones. that have caused losses that compromise the development of multiple communities, especially affecting the poorest.

In the period between 1990 and 2000, the world suffered the loss of approximately 700,000 people due to natural disasters. This figure is lower than that registered in the previous decade; However, the number of events, their intensity, and the economic and social damages surpassed the levels observed in the eighties.

The journalist Teresa Braine, in her article "2005 was the year of natural disasters" points out that from January to October 2005, 97,490 people died in the world due to disasters and of them, 88,117 due to natural disasters, data that the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. In the article itself, the author refers that according to data from the Research Center cited above, the number of natural disasters registered since 1900 has increased (floods, windstorms, droughts and geological disasters), and the number of people affected has also increased. has increased since 1975.

The area of ​​tropical latitudes is prone to the occurrence of potentially damaging hydrometeorological phenomena, which occur seasonally in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

In Latin America and especially in the Caribbean there have been damages due to different events of climatic origin that have caused great damage due to the vulnerability of the region, among them are:

  • Hurricane Georges 1998 (The Caribbean)
  • Hurricane Mitch 1998 (Central America and the Caribbean) 9,214 people died, 1,191,908 affected and 6,008 million dollars lost, mainly in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.
  • El Niño 1997/1998 (Andean Region).

Cuba, the largest archipelago in the Caribbean, has been affected by potentially destructive natural phenomena, among them hydrometeorological ones, which is why the National Defense Council, in accordance with article 101 of the Constitution of the Republic, and According to article 26 of Law No. 75 "On National Defense" of December 21, 1994, has established the regulations for the organization, planning and preparation of the country for disaster situations.

The geographical position of the country in the Caribbean Sea and other characteristics such as: area included in the fourth world region for the formation of tropical cyclones, forced passage of large vessels involved in international trade, transit of migratory birds, as well as its proximity to the earthquake-generating zone originated by the contact between the Caribbean plate and North America and the characteristics of the humid tropical climate, with two fundamental seasons in the year, one of dry (November - April) and another of rain (May - October) condition the risks to natural, technological and health hazards.

Among the main threats of natural origin in Cuba are: tropical cyclones, intense rains, severe local electrical storms, sea penetrations, landslides, earthquakes, intense droughts and fires in rural areas.

In the eastern region of the country and especially in the Granma province, the occurrence of the threats mentioned above is likely, so the provincial and municipal governments, the Civil Defense, the National Center for Seismological Research (CENAIS), and Other institutions have projected compliance with Directive No. 1 of June 1, 2005, as well as the planning of tasks and research projects that contribute to Risk-Resource Management and the prevention and mitigation of disasters in different scenarios.

Granma is one of the provinces where systematic work has been achieved with the Civil Defense system. In accordance with the Disaster Prevention Program of the National Center for Seismological Research, the province is considered the first to conceive a Research and Development Program aimed at the Prevention and Mitigation of Disasters. The need to incorporate Prevention into Development Programs is signified, especially with the implementation of Directive 01 of the Vice President of the National Defense Council, which establishes the responsibilities of different organizations and institutions, especially the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment. environment (CITMA), on disaster issues.

As part of the guidelines of the province's Disaster Prevention Program, there are educational processes, through a training and preparation plan aimed at cadres, specialists, students, and citizens in general, which with well-defined objectives contribute to the strengthening of the plan conceived to face emergencies and disasters.

Education is important and a priority, because if man does not acquire, develop and manifest awareness, knowledge, behaviors, attitudes and participation regarding disaster risks, he will not be able to prevent them. It is important to ensure that education contributes to and facilitates the achievement of a culture of prevention, and that the population and communities prepare and act in the face of disasters.

Education for disaster prevention, whether through curricular or non-curricular means, cannot become the sum of tasks, but is based on the principle of integration, which facilitates the process of developing educational work with a view to introducing and emphasize the variables and issues of comprehensive protection of the Environment and, especially, on disaster prevention. It is the teacher's responsibility to develop and select the proposed activities, taking into account the characteristics and particularities of each grade and the real possibilities of their students, without undervaluing the potential of the students.

The themes and activities that are addressed with the students must be affordable and adapted depending on the interests and needs, as well as have a flexible, dynamic, creative and participatory nature, subject to changes and adaptations. The aforementioned evidence that to carry out this educational work does not require programs, methodological orientations of a particular discipline, but rather the experience and creativity of the teacher to provide a space for preparation and reflection that allows them to know in greater depth the world that surrounds you.


In his article "Decade of Education", Enrique Leff highlights how education has been at the center of social debates in recent years, given the educational lags of many countries in the world, influencing this in the agreement of the World Education Forum , held in Dakar, Senegal in April 2000, to promote a Decade of Education for All, taking up the goals approved at the World Conference on Education for All, held in Jomtien in 1990. These goals were integrated into the Millennium Goals and reiterated in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation in 2002, including promoting a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

Contributing to Sustainable Development from education means assuming a more critical, analytical and participatory perspective, where the subject has an active position in front of knowledge, and is able to generate changes in current life without compromising the conditions of future generations.

Environmental education is the link between education in its broadest definition, environmental protection and development. To speak of environmental education is not to limit it to the framework of the school itself, but to consider it extensively up to the community level, it is the population as a whole; It is a school that constitutes an educational promoter center of the community in interaction with the institutions that are in charge of contributing to the protection of the Environment and the prevention of disasters.

Through the process of environmental education, both at school and in the community, it is possible not only to inform, but also to train; in the most comprehensive sense, to students and citizens in general in relation to being better prepared every day to reduce risks; It is not living with them, it is managing to interact in an increasingly less vulnerable scenario.

The school as a social institution is in charge of the instruction and education of the students, of enhancing the student leadership, as well as projecting itself for the satisfaction of the educational needs of the entire community and its protection. Joining the efforts of teachers, detecting their main problems and drawing up an action plan for their solution, are the first activities that must be carried out in order to get the school to start its work of education for disaster prevention and emergency preparedness.

For the proposal of actions, the training of a research teacher is required who is capable of using techniques and instruments for the knowledge of the conditions that allow him to plan and carry out his work both within the school, and in the more general framework of the community. The need for improvement is an important factor for the good performance of teachers in the proper treatment of the subject, as well as for exchange with counterparts in the educational sector and other institutions.

As part of the actions undertaken by the Environmental Education Study Center of the “Blas Roca Calderío” Pedagogical University of Granma province related to disaster prevention and mitigation are:

  • Training courses for teachers and specialists from non-teaching institutions, standing out among them: Environmental Hazards: an educational approach, Educational Approach to Environmental Risks and Risk and Resource Management.
  • Participation in educational projects and research : The education Environmental in the organization of Pioneros "José Martí" to face Tropical Cyclones, and Risk Management in the Manzanillo municipality.
  • Advice to the scientific activity of the students of the Pedagogical University: The education Environmental in the organization of Pioneros “José Martí” to face disasters in the municipalities of Bayamo and Río Cauto.
  • Scientific exchange in National and International Events.
  • Agreement with institutions and organizations: Local Human Development Program (PDHL) and National Center for Seismological Research (CENAIS).
  • Community intervention: Talks and Conversations with the community to prepare for emergencies and disasters

In general, it is important to highlight that the prevention and mitigation of disasters is a priority task in Cuba and therefore in the Granma province, which is why we work intensively in the preparation of specialists, community leaders, teachers and all those who assume the role of facilitators in charge of transmitting, disseminating and contributing to the training of residents in the communities on the issues of emergency and disaster prevention.

The foregoing corroborates that a process of prevention, preparation, response and recovery is carried out from the perspective of preserving the security and sustainability of development processes, preserving wealth and resources against the threats that threaten us, both those of natural origin and those of natural origin. originated by human action.

In this way, the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development becomes a new stage of development and promotion of the efforts made in favor of Environmental Education, emphasizing the participation of students of different educations and citizens in general in building a sustainable future.

* Authors:
MSc. Débora Manchón Reina. Assistant Professor
MSc. Elsa Hernández Sabourín. Sergio Torres Zamora. Assistant Professor
Lic. Herlinda Remón Castillo Assistant Professor

"Center for Environmental Education Studies" Pedagogical University "Blas Roca Calderío" Granma. Cuba. http://www.ispgrm.rimed.cu/centros/ceea/index.html


Video: Education for disaster preparedness (May 2021).