CHENNAI: The school children, who witnessed 2015 floods in Chennai, were mentally traumatized and showed anxiety symptoms. In fact, the areas where inundation level was more, the children of those areas showed increased trauma symptoms. The findings came to fore during a study conducted by the Applied Geology department of University of Madras in collaboration with ETH Zurich, a university in Switzerland.
Both the universities jointly conducted the study “Role of Children in Disaster recovery in Chennai" in the areas of the city which were badly affected in 2015 floods. These include Velachery, Saidapet, and Mylapore . More than 790 school children belonging to 11 schools were interviewed for this study.
On basis of this study, the department will soon propose to the state government to upgrade disaster management curriculum in schools and make it more activity-based to ensure that children are well prepared to deal with natural disasters.
It was found in the study that school children who faced the floods were traumatized mentally. Though measures were taken by administration for rescue and rehabilitation of the victims after floods but little was done to address the psychological trauma the children undergo after witnessing the intensity of the flood, the diseases which spread in aftermath and the pain of losing their belongings. The researchers also found that after floods the parents of the children victims, who mainly belong to economically weak background, lose their jobs which also add to their trauma.
Interestingly, the researchers also found that the students who participated in some way in the relief and rescue operations were more resistant to the psychological impacts of the flood trauma and that faced anxiety they recovered from it faster than other children.
Professor and head of applied geology department, RR Krishnamurthy , who supervised the study, said though chapters on disasters management is taught in schools in the state but we have to make it more specific and activity-oriented instead of theoretical so that in times of need students can alert their family, neighbors and also facilitate relief and recovery efforts.
The study also suggests that children who were part of relief operations were more resilient to the disaster. So, we have to teach them to be prepared to deal with the disasters which the state in prone to, said Krishnamurthy.
The professor further added that a said a special meeting will be organized on August 22 in which different stakeholders from school education minister KA Sengottaiyan, director of Directorate of School Education, S Kannappan to teachers will participate and they will apprised about findings of the study.
"Teachers, scholars and experts in the field will give their views on the study following which a blueprint will be prepared as how to upgrade the disaster management course to increase the resilience of Children in Chennai to avoid future flood disasters impacts," said Krishnamurthy. The recommendations will be submitted to the state government.