Phyllis Kachere in MANGWE
The disaster risk reduction resilience project in Mangwe district, Matabeleland South has started bearing fruits as a retrofitted three-classroom block was commissioned on Wednesday.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony at Kwite Primary School in Mangwe district that borders Botswana, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society vice president Mr Dubilizwe Mpofu said the construction of the block by his organisation was supported by the Finnish Red Cross, Belgium Red Cross and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office.
He said the project was carried out under a project aimed at increasing disaster preparedness of vulnerable districts in Zimbabwe through school, community and institutional capacity building.
“The overall expected outcome of this intervention is to ensure that children and youth, and their home communities, are more resilient to disasters and have safer learning environments. We also expect that the learners and their communities are better able to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters,” said Mr Mpofu.
The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society piloted the comprehensive school safety project in Mangwe district since 2018 and has taken a national outlook as there is advocacy for the increased adoption of disaster risk reduction in schools.
Through this project, some schools with blocks destroyed by strong winds and other weather elements were built back better, in compliance with the required standard of construction that ensures among other things, good ventilation through insertion of standard size windows and the replacement of asbestos’s sheets with iron sheets for roofing.
The insertion of double entry points that have access ramps per classroom to ensure easy exit in times of disasters is also a key part of the blocks.
The access ramps on the entrances ensure easy access by the disabled members of our communities especially learners and teachers on wheelchairs, which also dovetails with the Government’s mantra of “leaving no one behind.”
All the classroom blocks in 10 schools targeted under phase one had their doorsteps replaced with access ramps making them user-friendly for all.
Addressing the gathering, Matabeleland South provincial education director Mrs Beatrice Manjere said:
“Through this project, targeted schools were supported in constituting school disaster management committees which were trained in disaster management, school risk assessment and contingency planning.
“The training was done by experts from the Department of Civil Protection, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Health and Child Care ministry and the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society,” said Mrs Manjere.
The other key stakeholder on risk assessments, said Mrs Manjere, was the Department of Public Works in charge of school buildings.
“This department ensures compliance with minimal expected standards of buildings that guarantees safety of school communities.”
She explained that Mangwe district was prone to strong winds and that the adverse climate change resulted in most classroom blocks in the district being destroyed by strong winds.
“Some schools in the district have suffered even human losses due to lightning, and as such, the Meteorological Services Department has also been romped into the project software components.”