Rethinking our pedagogy in the aftermath of disaster
The monstrous earthquake has taught us many lessons and one of them could be to incorporate disaster education in our curriculum. However, instant revision of the curriculum may not be practical and possible. Therefore, teachers need to bring adjustment of the disaster in the existing content. In this emergency situation, we cannot expect our practices in a structured way. Therefore, we need to make adjustment in teaching methods and techniques too. We may not have sufficient classrooms and materials. In that context, we can go for multi-grade teaching.
The recent earthquake in Nepal has claimed over 8,500 lives and caused damage of infrastructures and properties worth billions. It has brought effects in different aspects of our lives i.e. physical aspect, psychological aspect and socio-economical aspect. The education sector could not remain apart from it. Educational institutions remained closed for more than one month. In 44 quake-affected districts, 5,429 schools, 14,752 classrooms, 1,809 toilets and 1,058 drinking water facilities have been damaged badly, shows the data updated by the Department of Education (DoE) till May 11. The final statistics is yet to arrive and authorities expect the figures to go up. The disaster has directly or indirectly affected the lives of many students and teachers. Our teaching learning environment has been completely disturbed. Students are psychologically disturbed and hence not ready to learn.
In this backdrop, it is very challenging to resume our educational institutions. However, we should not continue to close them. One of the best ways to handle this traumatic situation for the students is to resume schools and help them to cope with the existing psycho-social disturbances and provide education in emergencies.
We are now in the post disaster situation, and it is obvious that it may take several years to recover the loss. Now we need to focus to bring the situation under normalcy with our resources and capacities of availability. As the school buildings have been destroyed and damaged, we can start teaching the students at our Temporary Learning Center (TLC). After we set up TLC, we need to adjust our content and methods to teach the quake affected children.
The monstrous earthquake has taught us many lessons and one of them could be to incorporate disaster education in our curriculum. However, instant revision of the curriculum may not be practical and possible. Therefore, teachers need to bring adjustment of the disaster in the existing content. In this emergency situation, we cannot expect our practices in a structured way. Therefore, we need to make adjustment in teaching methods and techniques too. We may not have sufficient classrooms and materials. In that context, we can go for multigrade teaching.
Similarly, we can use thematic approach in our classroom. Earthquake can be a theme to teach multiple subjects like science, social, language, mathematics and so on. In the same way, we can maximize the use of co-curricular activities like quiz contest, debates, oratory, poetry, essays, drawing and paintings, music, games etc. linking with the curricular objectives. Curriculum is a compass for teachers. Based on the objectives of the curriculum, teachers can design any activities relevant to the present situation. It is not the time only to stick to the contents of the textbooks. Textbooks should not be considered as holy books or crutch. We can make necessary adjustment in them. We can assign pair work and teamwork now, which can promote teamwork in students. Project works and presentation can be assigned. Similarly, plays, panel discussion, interaction, debates can be organized to promote disaster education.
The disaster has led the usual life to unusual. Our day-to-day lifestyle has been changed. Students are compelled to live under tarps/tents. Living in such shelters has been challenging for them and they may be vulnerable to disease, risk and insecurity. Therefore, it is equally important to provide education on safety, security and sanitation as well. Instead of focusing on the existing contents, we, the teachers, need to stretch out the contents to relevant and practical in the post disaster context.
In the context of Nepal, disasters such as earthquake, flood, landslides, lightning and fire, are usual natural calamities. We cannot prevent them but we can take precautions to save our lives. Hence, our children should be given education about the precautions and preventive measures for escaping from the disasters. Preparedness, rescue, relief and rehabilitation before, during and after the disasters should be introduced in the curriculum, that can be useful for the children to save their lives. Such contents can be including in ELT as well. Language is said to be taught contextually and the contents related to the disaster can fantastically create context to use and practice language in classroom. These contents basically serve two functions: they help us to create context to use and practice language and the content knowledge itself is relevant and useful for our students.
Our teaching learning practices need to be flexible in this scenario. We should not have high expectations from students. As we are in the transition, we need to focus on the activities that can heal trauma of students. Therapists suggest using Creative Expression Therapy (CET) in our classroom in order to manage post traumatic stress in students. The CET uses creative process of making art as a safe way to represent the inner experiences and pain of the traumatized people, which helps to develop awareness and support personal change. It is not necessary to be a therapist to use this technique in our classroom. We can use different activities like painting, drawing, poetry, songs/rhymes, music, stories, role plays, plays etc in our classrooms in order to help students express creatively. Students freely choose any category they like and express their feeling, experiences and pain through these activities.
To conclude, our efforts to give continuity to teach students by conducting classes even in temporary shelters can help them cope with difficulties and stress, and speed up the process of the recovery from trauma. Our curriculum should include disaster education to prepare and prevent from natural disasters. On the other hand, we need to rethink and revise our educational methods and practices to address the issues related to disaster.
The author is a teacher trainer of English with REED Nepal, and one of the Choutari editors.