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Essential principles 1 2 SECTION I: INTRODUCTION Key principles of community-based safer school construction Build safe schools and strengthen weak ones. Schools must be designed and constructed to protect students and staff. When existing schools facilities are unsafe, they need to be identified, prioritised and strengthened. Concern for community priorities, cost and time takes second place to safety, and all stakeholders must commit to ensuring safety through quality assurance. Building anything that does not meet these assurances risks lives and wastes development funds and community effort. Engage as partners. A community-based approach is premised on building consensus between the development actor/government body and the local community. Development actors and governments may be best positioned to provide knowledge of regional hazards, hazard-resistant designs and effective construction techniques. But communities will be more knowledgeable of local hazards, site conditions and material availability. They will also best understand local construction practices. Both parties need to learn from each other. Project implementers must avoid token participation. Rather, school communities should be empowered to be full partners in comprehensive school safety. 3 Ensure technical oversight. While appropriate safe school construction enhances community capacity and transfers technology, technical oversight remains crucial. The development actor or government must ensure design and construction complies with good practice for hazard-resistant construction. Where technical capacity is low, they should also increase local technical capacity by connecting skilled labour and technical specialists from the community with external specialists. 4 Build upon local knowledge. Safe school construction should build on local knowledge, not replace it. Site selection, design and construction should follow local practice, making only moderate adaptations to ensure safety. Doing so ensures communities can adapt good practices to existing ones and apply them elsewhere. 5 Develop capacity and bolster livelihoods. Community-based safe school construction provides an important training ground for new skills. Projects should support training for skilled craftsmen and women who need to learn hazard-resistant construction techniques. Once trained, these craftspeople may even market their new skills. Safe school projects may also be ideal for improving the skills of local government technical staff in hazardresistant design and construction oversight. Their involvement in all projects – big and small – can spark interest in community-based approaches and further encourage governments to fulfil their obligation of providing safe schools to all communities. Good practice 6 Support a culture of safety. Building safe schools provides a tangible project for increasing community awareness about hazards and risk-reduction strategies, and this awareness can be sustained and enhanced. Establishing school disaster management committees and integrating hazards and risk-reduction concepts into curricula can encourage everyone to regularly engage in school disaster risk reduction after construction is complete. 7 Scale-up and promote accountability. Organisations and agencies engaging in community-based safer school construction should develop common standards, processes and guidance tools. This will allow successful aspects of the approach to spread. They can also make a public commitment to safer schools and track this commitment through measurable targets and indicators. Photo: Veejay Villafranca/Save The Children 12