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Pakistan: Making Schools Safer - Field Diaries, Day Three: Lower Dir

16 January 2016

Helping women take the lead in disaster preparedness and response

By Mubashir Fida

Schoolchildren in Lower Dir

Eleven-year-old Laiba Bibi lives with her parents, brother and sister in Upper Badwan. When the earthquake struck, she was inside her house. Thanks to Laiba’s quick thinking - and the training she’d received - her family escaped unharmed.

"I was sitting at home when the ground started shaking," remembers Laiba. "When it became really strong, we walked slowly outside, as I had been taught to do. When we turned around, we saw the house collapse behind us. I thank God that we left the house when we did, and that no-one was inside when it collapsed. 

Since the earthquake, we have been living in a small guesthouse which the community lent us. My own house was made of stones and mud. This one is made of concrete, so we feel very safe. But it is hard to live here - it doesn’t feel like home. I lost all my books and belongings in the earthquake. We have started rebuilding our house with the savings my father had, and we hope to be able to move back in two to three months. 

When I came to school the day after the earthquake, I felt very scared that we all might die. But the principal explained to me that our house collapsed because it was made of mud and therefore not very strong. The house we are living in now is safer."

Laiba’s principal, Bibi Rizwana, also remembers that day vividly: "I was standing in morning assembly, trying to calm the children down. I was trying to provide psychosocial support to them, to console them and to tell them that everything would be fine. It’s hard for children here: they are very afraid. The APS attack put a lot of added stress on them." 

Laiba Bibi shows a classmate how to bandage a wound











Laiba Bibi (left) shows a classmate how to bandage a wound

Bibi Rizwana attended RedR’s Safer Schools training in 2014 and 2015, and since then has passed on the skills she learnt to both students and fellow teachers.

"I have been at the school for just under three years, and was made principal this year. I really liked the first aid element in last year’s training, particularly when we learnt how to treat different conditions like bleeding, burns and fractures.

Prior to this, I only knew local techniques and remedies. During the training, I learnt that different conditions require different treatment. For example, in the case of a bone fracture, if you can find a straight bit of wood and attach it with two cloths, the person will experience less pain while they’re being transported to the hospital. 

The community we live in is a conflict area, and the men often go out to work during the day. This means that the responsibility for keeping our houses and community safe often falls on women: we’re the ones who have to take the lead. For me, the best part of the training was when we learnt about safety and security management for the school. Now, when I walk to and from school, I look out for threats or suspicious things. 

This training is very good for teachers. All of us are passing it on. I think every woman in the community should have the opportunity to take this training. It would help us keep the community safe and secure."

Disaster preparedness lessons in Lower Dir

Disaster preparedness lessons in Lower Dir

Saima is a teacher at Kahwendo Kor High School in Lower Badwan.

"I attended RedR training in 2014 and in 2015. I have been teaching here for the past ten years - and now I realise that there was so much I didn’t know. None of the staff here knew what to do in emergency situations, or what warning signs to look out for if you’re walking around outside. 

Today, I regularly conduct first aid training and mock evacuation drills with my students. Once a week, I pass on safety information to my two classes (fourth and fifth grade): things like what to do in case of a fire, not to touch suspicious objects, and the importance of informing your elders of any concerns. I have trained the other teachers at the school in the basics of first aid, psychosocial support and fire safety. In the past year, I have also trained 61 children, who have gone home and shared these skills with their families. I regularly receive positive feedback from the children’s mothers.

Prior to the training, I lacked confidence - I used to get very stressed and nervous when an emergency happened. Now, I know that I can cope with a lot of difficult situations. For example, when the earthquake hit, I wasn’t scared, even though it was very intense. I was able to stay calm and console the children, asking them how they felt and trying to ease their fears. I really liked the psychosocial support element of the training. In this kind of situation, there’s a lot of talking. It’s easy to forget the importance of listening. Before offering advice, we should first of all listen to the children, and try to understand what they are feeling and the problems they are facing."

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All photos © Usman Ghani for RedR UK 

This project is supported by the Clothworkers’ Foundation, alongside several private donors.

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