Despite the fact that we are in the 21st century and we talk of 21st century skills, when it comes to career options; parents still harp on Medicine or Engineering. A huge sum of money is paid for “specialist coaching classes” and once an engineer graduates, he rushes to a management college to get himself an MBA degree and ends up selling either toothpaste or soaps. Why are we not able to think in a more contemporary manner?
The pandemic, if nothing else, has taught us that there is nothing like a safe job or career option. It has made us realise that the only sure thing is UNCERTAINTY. We need to get out of this convergent mode of thought and start thinking divergently. All of us have been impacted by the pandemic in some way or the other; let us at least now be prepared to take “risks” in our lives.
Two career options that are the need of the hour are – Risk Management and Financial Literacy. I say these two terms in the same breath because they are interlinked. We work so as to make our futures secure. Money at hand in a liquid form gives all of us sense of security. But learning to make our money work for us is the need of the hour. Risk implies that danger is involved but it need not be so. If we take calculated and educated risks, there is no risk at all.
But I digress, today what I am going to be talking about is Risk Management in schools.
Running a school involves a lot of responsibility and any responsibility has its own risks.
Imagine thousands of students rushing out at break time all scrambling to the canteen. Rushing to grab a snack before it is sold out can cause a near riot. But creating a situation that does not because mayhem is what Risk Management is about.
Risky situations at school-
- The school lift stopping midway due to a power outage.
- Getting hurt on the playground
- Fights amongst students
- Food poisoning
- Sudden illness or health issues
- Accidents while running on the corridors
- Students poking their fingers into open sockets
- Students poking each other with a compass as a lark.
The list is endless.
The school head is therefore truly a risk manager. How does this work?
Every institution must have a Risk Management Team of 4-5 staff members. Needless to say, the Principal is the head of the team. The second in command must be alert, agile and able to think on his/her feet. A list of all the emergency numbers must be displayed prominently for everyone to view.
This list must have the following numbers-
- Lift Maintenance
- Nearest Hospital
- School Doctor
- Police Station.
- Power Station
- Fire Brigade
The school nurse must have the numbers of all the students neatly classified and arranged. This will save time if the parent has to be contacted.
The school must conduct a safety drill every 3 months so that students know what to do if evacuation is necessary. All students should be brought down by the 2 separate staircases to prevent chaos and on to the ground in designated areas. This will avoid panic. The toddlers should be brought out first. In case of a real emergency, the parents may be called and their wards handed over to them. Never hand over a child to a neighbour or unknown relative unless there is a letter signed by the parent and the teacher identifies the signature as being that of the parent. Several years ago, when there were heavy rains and the city came to a standstill, I remember spending the night at school along with a few teachers and over 40 students. The fact that the kids were at school with their teachers reassured their parents who were stranded in several parts of the city due to a total breakdown of all traffic.
The Risk Management committee should meet every month to ensure that the maintenance contractors are doing their job. The Security personnel should conduct periodic drills to keep the processes active and to make sure that there is no slip up. While on a school trip ensure that all the adequate measures are taken to keep pupils safe and that every human error is avoided. However, one is aware that despite all this we do have some accidents happening. Every staff member and senior student should be trained in First Aid and other security measures to protect the school, students and others at school.
Simple basic instructions must be part of the school curriculum so that every student is aware of what to do in case of an emergency. As students go to the higher classes their degree of involvement in these programmes and the difficulty level of these courses will increase. This will ensure an aware and prepared student body ready to tackle any situation. The teachers involved in preparing this curriculum would be a part of motivated staff with a futuristic vision and who enjoy new challenges. Naturally such teachers will be mentors for the students. This will go a long way in creating a positive and secure school climate. In fact, we will be preparing a group of young people ready to take on the complex mantle of risk managers in their adult life.
Thus we can see that it is never too late to be prepared for risks. Like all other fields, the time to start educating the students about risks and being prepared to handle the same must start at school. Risk management at this level need not be a separate subject or paper. What a clever and creative curriculum constructor and developer will do is to include these elements in all that is taught; irrespective of the subject being taught; Mathematics (sums can deal with risky ventures), Science (accidents, first-aid, poisons and chemicals), Geography (dangers that could be experienced due to climate change) and so on. Once the young minds are aware that things could go wrong if not dealt with correctly and at the right time; the difficulty levels will automatically surface.
I believe that Risk Management should be a mandatory part of studies at the tertiary level along with Environmental Management, Financial Literacy And Geriatric Studies because these are bound to impact all of us at some time or the other and the only way to handle them is like a Boy Scout- “Be Prepared”.
Submitted by: Dr. Ranjini Krishnaswamy – Veteran Academician