Prevention they say is better or cheaper than cure. However, as much as we may do everything in our strength to prevent emergencies, we may still experience them. Hence, there is great need for preparedness against any unforeseen disaster. There are more children in the school environment than adults. As society continues to become unsafe especially in the school environment in recent times, there is need for practical action not only in writing but in terms of seen activities that demonstrate that school children and their teachers are protected against the safety and security risks they are exposed to from day to day.
There are a lot of dangers that threaten the school environment in our day. In Nigeria and some parts of Africa terrorism is the major threat aside the issue of kidnapping, students’ violence, natural disasters etc. For these reasons it is vital for Government authorities to develop a standard school safety and security manual, which will contain best practices and will in turn guide school authorities to know what to do to keep our schools safe.
Disaster planning: For example, this shows that a school management is alert to issues that threaten the safety of the school. Disaster planning will help everyone to know how to respond in case of any emergency. A school that that is prepared for any unforeseen emergency would do the following:
School Emergency Plan: This will include organization of the staff to meet an emergency, a system of warnings, instruction and preparedness of staff and students, and appropriate drills. Some other things that it should contain include evacuation routes, assembly areas, first aid stations and designated areas for prolonged staff and student care. The school authority is expected to ensure that relevant personnel of the school have copies of the School Emergency Plan.
Hazard Identification: Schools should be able to carry out annual inspection of each office, classroom and each school’s immediate neighborhood to be aware of potential hazards. This would help to take appropriate action to deal with such hazards. For example some of the teachers I participated in training in Lagos State mentioned the fact that around their schools, were hazards, such as pools of water, nearby chemical industries, nearby motor-parks and hoodlums who loiter around them, over-crowded classrooms, etc. Hazards such as these within or outside the school environment could be eliminated, substituted or controlled.
Training and Awareness: Not knowing what to do to prevent emergencies and not knowing what to do during and after emergencies are major factors affecting school safety management in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Training plan will help to identify persons that need to be trained in various aspect of emergency preparedness including first aid certification, operation of equipment, assessment of building safety, management of students’ behavior, etc. As I mentioned elsewhere, the training that was carried out for Secondary School Teachers in Lagos State helped to raise safety awareness in Lagos State Secondary schools for the teachers. I am also aware that there are various clubs including Red Cross, Boy Scout, etc. that carry out activities relating to making the school environment safe for all. From my personal experience in this project, it was clear that many teachers, until the safety training were not really aware of some hazards in their school environments. They also did not know the implication of some of their actions. For example, exits of some classrooms were blocked thereby compromising the safety of students. For this reason the teachers where happy that they had the opportunity to learn the emergency preparedness skills. These knowledge and skills must not be restricted to only teachers but also students. It must not be for only secondary school students but both nursery, primary and tertiary schools.
Assigning Responsibilities: It is important that teams are designated to be in charge of various aspect of emergency management within the school environment including First Aid providers, crowd control managers, etc. These individuals may also include students. This is because research has shown that when students are involved in projects that concern them there are better results.