London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Solidarity and active citizenship learned from a natural disaster: the school experience after the May 2012 earthquake in Italy

Author(s) Chistolini, S.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2013  
Editor P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges  
Age group -  
This paper presents part of a larger research on the consequences of an earthquake on the scholastic life of children aged 3-11. In May, schools abruptly closed due to the earthquake in Emilia Romagna and Lombardy. Children and teachers fled from them, leaving school backpacks and books in the classrooms. Daily life was disrupted and the community gathered in tents set up by civil defence. Immigrant families returned to their countries of origin or shared life in the tent cities. The theoretical sources of the research were mostly composed of the latest international studies on natural disasters and education, focussing especially on: the vulnerability of the persons concerned (Gaillard and Navizet); measures for risk reduction (Hagelsteen and Becker); environmental sustainability (Aksan and Çelikler; Radulescu; Fekete); community resilience (Joerin, Shaw, Takeuchi and Krishnamurthy); controversial human development between freedom of the person and economic globalisation (Jafarzadeh and Beheshti; Abdel-Hadi). Our interviews with teachers, school rectors and citizens revealed the impact of the earthquake on community life, the political role of institutions, the social action of volunteer groups, the commitment of the fire department, the capacity of teachers to turn the disaster from an experience of total loss and destruction to the desire for personal and social rebirth, and the exemplary courage displayed by children well-trained in the evacuation drills prepared by the schools. Earthquakes can cause a loss of community identity and simultaneously be a time of active citizenship through educating to the reconstruction of the local historic memory. For every house sucked down by the earth a plan for living is reborn, a sign of how misfortune can trigger unexpected human solidarity and a responsible participation in the recovery of daily life. The production of a video and the workshops with students were parts of the research in interaction. Keywords: School experience, natural disaster, education, solidarity, active citizenship

Back to search results


   Page last updated 09 March 2011