Thirty-seven persons from pre-primary to tertiary levels at public and primary institutions received training to ensure that their schools are safe, healthy and green.
The personnel are being trained to use sustained mitigation, adaptation and resilient techniques (SMART) in a quadripartite arrangement with the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Culture, Dr. Marcia Potter expressed her appreciation to the various partners and DDM in particular for the efforts made over the years in coordinating the SMART Schools Programme.
She said, “DDM continues to work with us on the SMART Schools initiative and this has been a very successful arrangement; one that is now recognized globally. The Ministry’s disaster management programme is built on 4 key elements: – making learning facilities safe and healthy; integrating disaster management practices into the curriculum; promoting climate adaptation and supporting resilient education.”
Emergency Coordinator for UNICEF in the BVI, Ms. Laura Ivey noted that BVI SMART School initiative is an ideal model for how educational facilities can connect safe, green and healthy components. She was impressed with the work that is being done in the BVI which is in line with the UNICEF strategy that promotes the Worldwide Initiative on Safe Schools as well as the Caribbean Safe School Initiative that was adapted from the BVI SMART School programme.
“We were able to reach out to the Ministry and the DDM and we’re happy to support their efforts,” she said.
Ms. Ivy also stated, “We were particularly interested in ensuring that opportunities are given to the school to update or develop their multi-hazard disaster management plans, with specific emphasis on continuity of their operations. Our partnership with ADRA, following the impacts of the 2017 Hurricanes, has allowed us to continue to work with this organisation to support school-based initiatives.”
The Territory’s SMART Schools programme is in keeping with the United National Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GAD3RES) to promote coherent and coordinated action on school safety globally.
Deputy Director at the DDM, Dr. Evangeline Inniss-Springer explained how the approach evolved.
“We modeled the SMART Schools Programme after the PAHO SMART Hospitals Initiative which is aimed at reducing vulnerability in critical facilities. The emphasis is on environmental protection and in reducing the carbon footprint; pollution, energy and water consumption; promoting recycling, chemical management, improving air quality and strengthening surveillance and control.”
Dr. Inniss-Springer stated that the approach fosters multi-sector agencies working together to promote community involvement and that the quadripartite arrangement was a good fit for this initiative.
She added, “We have called on our partners in the Financial Services to assist in ensuring the protection of the material through copyright. The work of the Ministry and the DDM must be protected as this presents evidence of the level of knowledge and expertise that exists in the Territory and the opportunities for the Virgin Islands to promote its work regionally and globally”.
The SMART Schools training, which was held from June 25 to 28, 2018, was facilitated by a local architectural firm, Trojan Design and Development Ltd. The firm developed the Smart Schools Toolkit in 2017 and tested it in a workshop. The training also included the use of tools that help to test lighting, air quality, and energy consumption usage. Additional training for schools is also planned for July and September 2018.