Children taught how to survive climate change

Published: 05/04/2011 05:00



Life was beautiful in Thuan Commune –
once. Now it floods in the winter, broils in the summer, lies wreathed in mist
for the rest of the year, and the children have to scavenge for cooking.

Students learn how to adapt to and
minimise the impacts of climate change at Dinh Bang Primary School in Bac Ninh
Province. (Photo: VNS)

“Previously, there
was no fog and the weather in our village was much better, but in recent years,
fog covers our village every morning, the temperature gets hotter in the summer
and floods, droughts happen more frequently.”

The children from
Thuan Commune have made an eight-minute documentary about life in the village.

The short film,
narrated by Ho La Hoi, an eighth grade student, was shown by Plan International
at a workshop in Ha Noi last week. The audience consisted of educators, aid
workers and NGO staff.

The audience saw, in
an unsentimental way, how the village’s bedraggled children have to forage for
food. The narrator even describes how children take home dead carcasses to eat.

“Before it floods,
villagers should build cement water tanks to store clean water, bring food to
safe places like the school and the People’s Committee offices,” Hoi says in a

Nguyen Trong Ninh,
Disaster Risk Management manager from Plan International, agrees. He says the
commune’s children should take the initiative and help themselves.

The short documentary
was the brainchild of Plan International. The organisation ran a film-making
course for the children of Thuan Commune in Huong Hoa District and neighbouring
A Ngo Commune, in Dakrong District in Central Quang Tri Province.

“Making documentaries
gives the children in the region an opportunity to have their voices heard. They
too can participate in disaster-risk reduction plans.”

Ninh says 90 per cent
of the children in the two communes have embraced the idea of film making.

“This is an effective
tool of communications and policy dissemination,” Ninh added.

Nguyen Van Gia,
Emergency Programme Sector head from Save the Children said children should be
encouraged to help themselves. Gia said Save the Children had been working on
child-focused, child-led disaster-prevention programmes at commune level.

“In certain communes,
children now take part in the distribution of life vests and raincoats in case
of disasters,” Gia said.

“Children are very
creative. We adults need to respect and listen to their ideas.”

At the workshop, Le
Thi Kim Anh, deputy head of the Department of Education and Training in Quang
Ngai Province, shared with the audience her province’s experience in educating
children on climate change and disaster prevention.

Anh said local
schools had taught children about disaster preparedness but said the lessons had
been uninspiring.

“During most lessons,
children just passively listened to their teachers and they were not properly
encouraged to talk about what they thought or felt,” she said.

But now things have
changed, with the help of NGOs and local authorities. Disaster education is now
an extra-curricular activity. Schools organise field trips to disaster-prone
areas and show in a practical way what can be done to minimise the effects of
global warming.

Children play
environmentally oriented games, memorise songs and poems, draw pictures, recount
real-life experiences.

Children are also
encouraged to express their own opinions, rather than relate the words of their

The experience, says
Anh, can, and has been, life-changing.

“Children are active
and enthusiastic if they are respected and are made to feel important.”

Nam News

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