What is school infrastructure?
School infrastructure is formally defined as the network of school facilities, campus grounds, buildings, furniture, and equipment that enable teachers and administrators to offer educational services in accordance with a country’s regulatory framework.1
Figure 1. Different spaces within a school facility
1There may also be informal infrastructure that does not follow required norms recognized within a country as delivering private and public educational services.
What is disaster risk in the education sector?
Disaster risk refers to the likelihood of severe disruptions to the normal functioning of the school infrastructure network caused by hazard events. Disaster risk occurs over a specific time frame and interacts with vulnerable social conditions, leading to adverse human, economic, social, and educational effects.1
Poor performance of school infrastructure exposed to hazard events produces a number of direct consequences:
- Fatalities and injuries among children and teachers
- Economic losses from the damage to school infrastructure
- Disruption of educational services, resulting in downtime and reduced infrastructure network capacity.2
Overall, the cumulative impact of disasters exacerbates the education challenges faced by developing countries. Governments find it harder to finance and operate a growing stock of school facilities and ensure educational continuity, especially in the poorest areas. Although no comprehensive study has been made of the historical impacts of natural hazards on the education sector worldwide, partial data are instructive.
A single earthquake event in Sichuan, China, for example, killed 5,535 children in 2008. As catastrophic as such a single large-scale disaster is, the accumulative impact of low-intensity and high-frequency events, such as floods and storms, may be even greater. In Mozambique, floods in 2013 and 2015 destroyed a total of 695 conventional classrooms and damaged 433, compared to an average of about 800 classrooms built during those years by the Ministry of Education and Human Development (World Bank 2016a).
Furthermore, in addition to these immediate direct impacts, hazard events can have indirect effects on the learning environment in the medium term, particularly as recovery and reconstruction proceed. Two years after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, for example, nearly a million children were still attending classes in temporary facilities offering poor shelter from the weather.
1Adapted from IPCC 2012.
2 Explained below.
What is safer school infrastructure?
Safer school infrastructure can refer either to existing school facilities where interventions are made to improve performance in the face of natural hazards or to new facilities whose planning, design, and construction include risk reduction measures. With safer school infrastructure, the probability of fatalities and injuries, economic losses, and downtime1caused by the failure of buildings and other infrastructure decreases significantly. Different levels of performance can be defined to meet safety and operational targets.
Intervening in a school facility means reducing hazard, exposure, and/or vulnerability. As the definition of safety is based on what a particular society sees as acceptable risk, there is no global standard. More objectively, safety is defined by the legal framework each country establishes for the planning, design, construction, and operation of school infrastructure.
From a broader perspective, interventions to reduce vulnerability in school infrastructure should be complemented by better preparation of the school community for emergency situations and the mainstreaming of disaster risk management in the field of education.2
1Period in which the infrastructure is out of service.
2See Comprehensive School Safety Framework (CSSF), “A Global Framework in Support of the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector and the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools,” March 2017.
What is resilient school infrastructure?
Resilient school infrastructure refers to the capacity of the school infrastructure network to cope with an emergency or disaster caused by a hazard event and to recover rapidly from it.
Conceptually, improved resilience can be understood as reducing the downtime of a service in the aftermath of a disaster. A disaster event is likely to cause unexpected disruptions to the service provided by schools, ranging from classroom interruptions lasting a few minutes to situations in which children are out of school for several months or must attend classes in temporary facilities, which are usually inadequate for learning purposes. The time needed for the educational service to be restored fully to its normal condition (that is, the downtime) is a useful measure of resilience by which improvements can be tracked over time within a given network.
Several factors govern downtime in a disaster-affected network. Some are related to the overall capacity of the sector—in this case, the education sector—to manage and implement recovery and reconstruction interventions. Others are intrinsic to the level of damage to the network and its capacity to handle disruptions in several parts of it. More resilient school infrastructure tends to require less time to recover capacity and, in consequence, to restore quickly the educational service in an environment conducive to learning.
The achievement of resilience in school infrastructure is not limited solely to making improvements to facilities. It must also include having in place plans for business continuity, school emergency response, and reconstruction. The objective is to adjust existing school facilities so they can support contingency measures (provision of shelter or classroom relocation, for instance) included in the continuity and emergency plans. These plans define the decision-making chain, actions, roles, and resources required in case of emergency or crisis. Reconstruction planning considers the sector’s capacity to assess the impact of disasters, derive evidence-based knowledge from infrastructure failures, and integrate findings in the reconstruction strategy. In doing so, reconstruction planning helps accelerate the implementation process, maximize investment efficiency, and reduce the vulnerability of infrastructure to future hazard events.
Post-disaster recovery and reconstruction of school infrastructure
The aim of the recovery and reconstruction process in the education sector is primarily to reduce disruption to schooling by restoring the normal capacity and condition of school infrastructure.
Recovery refers to activities that follow the emergency relief phase. It focuses on restoring educational services quickly for affected communities through temporary measures, which may include the use of temporary learning centers (TLCs), the reallocation of students and teachers to unaffected school facilities, and the provision of social support to mitigate the indirect impact of disaster on children during the recovery period (abuse and violence in shelter environments, for instance, prove to be aggravating factors). The recovery phase is a transitional period that lasts as long as reconstruction goes on.
Reconstruction refers to interventions in existing facilities in the form of repair, replacement, retrofitting1, or relocation, resulting in the improved safety and resilience of school infrastructure. As the reconstruction phase may take years to complete, a thorough planning process is needed to align the intervention and implementation strategy to priorities and targets established over time. The goal is to maximize reconstruction efficiency and provide equitable benefits across the affected communities.
Figure 1. Response, Recovery, and Reconstruction Phases (GPSS, 2016)
1Retrofitting refers to modifications made to structural and nonstructural components that enhance the performance of a building.