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A community-based approach: the principles

A community-based approach to safer school construction is based on five principles, which guide the project from beginning to end. Two additional good practices also help increase the impact of the approach.

Principles to follow at all times

1. Build safe schools and strengthen weak ones

Schools must be designed and constructed to protect students and staff. When facilities are unsafe, they must be identified, prioritised, and strengthened. All people involved must choose safety over concerns regarding cost and time. Everyone must commit to safety by making sure the construction meets a high quality standard. Without these quality standards, we risk lives and waste funds and effort.

2. Work as partners

A community-based approach is about building an agreement between the project implementer (a developer or government) and the local community. Development organisations and governments can help communities understand regional hazards, hazard-resistant designs and effective construction techniques. Communities will
know about local hazards, site conditions and material availability. They best understand local construction practices. All parties need to learn from each other: project implementers must avoid token participation, and school communities must be empowered to be full partners in Comprehensive School Safety.

3. Ensure technical oversight

Successful safer school construction increases the capacity of the community. While local builders may learn new technical skills, technical specialists still have an important role to play. The project implementer must ensure design and construction complies with good practice for safer (hazard-resistant) construction. Where local skills are low, project implementers must increase capacity by connecting the community with external experts.

4. Build on local knowledge

Safer school construction should build on local knowledge, not replace it. Site selection, design and construction should follow local practice, with only moderate alterations to ensure safety. This ensures communities can adapt good practices to existing ones and apply them elsewhere.

5. Develop abilities and strengthen livelihoods

Safer school construction provides an important training ground for new skills. Projects should support training for local builders who need to learn safer construction techniques. Once trained, these builders may even market their new skills. Safer school projects can also improve the skills of local government technical staff in overseeing safer design and construction. Their involvement in all projects – big and small – can spark interest in community-based approaches. It can encourage national governments to fulfill their obligation to provide safer schools to all communities.

Good practices to increase impact

1. Support a culture of safety
Safer school construction projects increase community awareness about hazards and risk reduction. After construction, establishing school disaster management committees and introducing curricula on risk reduction can encourage the community to develop a culture of safety.

2. Promote broader responsibility
Project implementers engaging in safer school construction should develop common standards and processes. This will allow successful aspects of the community-based approach to spread. They can also make a public commitment to safer schools and track their progress towards measurable targets.

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