The teacher survived. A few students did not as their homes were washed away. Many more would have lost their lives had they been in school; the school, located more than a kilometer from the Andaman coastline was completely destroyed.
Students prepare for tsunami
Three weeks ago, over 650 students – between 4 and 18 years old - gathered in the same vicinity to learn about tsunami preparedness. The school renamed the 35th Rajaprajanugroh School, was rebuilt on higher ground, above the destroyed school which now serves as a football field. Most of the students were not born or were too little when the devastating tsunami hit, and many of the elders did not wish to recall what they had survived.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the tsunami preparedness programme in the school, Renaud Meyer, Resident Representative of the UN’s Development Programme in Thailand highlighted: “We prepare for tsunamis because it’s not about if it will happen, but when it will happen”. It is a special day for the school as representatives from the Ministry of Education, the UNDP, and the Government of Japan are present to witness the programme and safe evacuation drill, part of a regional project aimed at school tsunami preparedness in 23 Asia Pacific countries. These students will join the 150,000 students that have been trained to be tsunami prepared by the UNDP with funding support from the Government of Japan.
As the senior guests are greeted by the students with flowers gently placed on their lapels, the atmosphere is of curiosity, enthusiasm and seriousness. The palpable energy reveals the importance of the day – it is days like these that can make all the difference. It is days like these that spark hope that as powerful and unpredictable as nature may be, lives can be saved with preparedness. Teacher Thongdee, who is now retired and was invited to join the school programme, says, “I wish we were taught about the tsunami so many years ago. I am happy that these students will be informed and prepared.”