Facilitating School Children at Post Earthquake Classroom

I had to deal with small kids and it was comparatively easy in some ways. I played the music, gave them sports equipment, asked them to sing and tell jokes. They enjoyed, and did not make any mention of earthquakes meanwhile. So, that’s all we focused in initial days of school reopening. It diverted the minds of the students who cried while coming to school, and had smiles on their faces while returning back home. Slowly the number of students coming school started to increase.

Neha Shah

Neha Shah

Earthquakes and their effects

Earthquakes are movements of the earth’s surface, often as a result of a fault or fracture in the crust that can be violent enough to destroy major buildings and kill thousands of people. The severity of the shaking can range from barely felt to violent enough to toss people around. They happen more often in some parts of the world than others.

Literally, earthquakes and its devastating effects on the people is very complicated. Most people are affected by it and fear it yet there are few who are not at all sacred. The recent earthquake in Nepal has also killed thousands of people, and has resulted in psychological effects on people- perhaps more on children. If we consider the children of the age group (5-8), they also have different thoughts towards earthquakes. They actually do not know what exactly earthquake is and what all differences does it bring to one’s life. Therefore, they are more likely to make false assumptions and eventually bring more fear in themselves.

What I experienced in my classroom  

Being a teacher of this age group, I was initially much tensed how I would be handling the students after this massive earthquake and how I was going to deal with my students. At the same time, I was curious as what all questions my students might raise to me. This had triggered a lot of interrogations in my head, and, as a result, I prepared a set of answers to the possible questions in my mind if I was asked.  But to my surprise, my students didn’t even raise a single question. On the contrary, they were very much pleased and happy to meet their friends and teachers after a long gap. They had pleasing smiles on their faces. Yet, there were few who wear crying and scared when their parents dropped them to the school. It might have happened because of two reasons, either reporting to the school after a long time, or they had an awful experience during earthquakes. Generic assumptions can therefore not be made about the way children may respond to such disasters. It is very much individual situations. This has suggested me exploring and understanding each child in my classroom that is very challenging, but demanding.

Parents, in addition, can play a significant part in handling kids especially after such calamities. If parents keep themselves calm and strong- with shaken heart however- and handle situation wisely then children can also act accordingly. The stronger the parents are the more mentally stronger children become.  Eventually because of those parents who handled their kids wisely we, teachers, didn’t face much difficulty in dealing with the children.

Yes- nevertheless, there are few children who are badly traumatized. The aftershocks, cracks in the wall, rumbling noises, destroyed buildings, smell of fire and smoke, the places where they experienced the earthquakes, seeing people with disabilities, funerals can get them traumatized again. These kind of students can be given time for  counselling  from the ones they get along with, from the ones they feel comfortable to talk to or love spending time with or the ones who can be a better counsellor.

While conversing with my students, I asked them a simple question what an earthquake is. One of them simply answered that moving of the ground is an earthquake, during which buildings come down, people die, we live outside our home, etc.  Then, I asked a next question, “What should we do when an earthquake takes place? Almost everyone answered this question since they had been told by their parents about the earthquake and what one is meant to do while it occurs. This is an example of children from the capital city where the majority of parents are well educated. However, I would wonder this might be a different case in remote locations where parents are themselves not aware of the all these ideas. It would therefore require different concerned agencies to look at this issue.

What the school planned

Before the school actually started, we were called for a meeting where we discussed what we intended to do as far as classroom activities were concerned in terms of abating children’s fear and bring them to normal learning environment. We also focused on safety measures in order to keep the students outside on the ground level to avoid any accidents in case of any aftershocks. We were advised not to talk about earthquakes and not to ask experiences of students what they had. This was thought for building positive environment it, therefore children can get out of the trauma.

I had to deal with small kids and it was comparatively easy in some ways. I played the music, gave them sports equipment, asked them to sing and tell jokes. They enjoyed, and did not make any mention of earthquakes meanwhile. So, that’s all we focused in initial days of school reopening. It diverted the minds of the students who cried while coming to school, and had smiles on their faces while returning back home. Slowly the number of students coming school started to increase.

Conclusion

Finally, resuming the school after the earthquake was a very good decision; it was boon for the student as well as parents. We should, by no means, shop children from learning. We should rather create opportunities to continue learning even in emergencies, as stated, however with precautions. It was difficult for the parents to leave their kids at school but when they saw the children’s happy faces at home time, they thought of sending them to school is a wise decision. It is still challenging, but we are strong and careful for our lovely kids.


The author, a graduate in Business Studies, teaches in Ideal Model Higher Secondary School, Kathmandu.

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