School safety is defined as schools and school-related activities where students and staff are safe from natural and man-made disasters including floods, earthquakes, debris flow, fire, violence, bullying, harassment, and substance use. School safety ensures that the future generations are protected from the adverse effects of disasters and it is given paramount importance in most countries across the world. Amongst other factors, it encompasses the need to inculcate basic disaster preparedness skills amongst the students and teachers and ensuring the presence of safe school infrastructure.
Pakistan’s history is replete with incidents whereby various disasters have resulted in the preventable deaths of thousands of young children in the school premises, who were striving for crafting a better future for themselves and their country. In this regard, the most heart-wrenching incident of 2005’s earthquake which claimed the lives of over 18,000 school students, bears the testimony to the acute vulnerability of students, teachers, as well as the educational institutions against the disasters in Pakistan.
Considering the urgent need of addressing the worrisome conditions in schools, which put the lives of thousands of children and teachers at stake, the Aga Khan Development Network in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan organized the first-ever international conference on School Safety on May 16th, 2008. Since then, May 16th is celebrated as the School Safety Day in Pakistan.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, amidst the growing fear, uncertainty, and insecurity, schools in most of the countries are closed and so most of the children are confined at their homes. In such pressing times, it is pertinent to ensure the well-being of students while providing them with essential learning opportunities at home, keeping the flame of hope alive. AKAH, Pakistan while commemorating the School Safety Day-16th May 2020, advises all parents, students, and teachers to adopt the necessary measures to protect themselves and the children from this novel virus, most importantly by adopting hygienic practices including washing hands with soap for 20 seconds, covering mouth with a mask and ensuring physical distancing. With the united efforts, we believe we can ensure our safety as well as that of our future generations from these unprecedented disaster conditions.