April 30, 20191390Views

The successes of the BVI’s SMART Schools concept were shared at the 2nd annual Caribbean Safe Schools Ministerial Forum held in St. Vincent and the Grenadines April 29-30th, 2019.

The two day forum was attended by Minister for Education, Culture, Agriculture, Fisheries, Sports and Youth Affairs Dr. Natalio Wheatley, along with Permanent Secretary Dr. Marcia Potter and Department of Disaster Management Director Sharleen DaBreo, MBE.

The officials shared how the programme has worked in the Territory since the Department of Disaster Management issued its first Safe School certification more than five years ago and how the BVI is incorporating environmental measures for SMART Schools, the program that grew out of Safe Schools.

During the forum, Dr. Wheatley participated in a ministerial panel discussing ways to advance the Roadmap on School Safety. He said the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria served to highlight the need for all educational facilities to look beyond having resilient physical structures, towards ensuring that systems are in place to minimise the disruption that can occur after a major hazard impact and to protecting the overall well-being of the school population.

“Now it’s very clear that we have to build resilience,” Dr. Wheatley said, while explaining how the original Safe School concept has been expanded. “We in the BVI have broadened that into a cross-sectoral framework which includes environmental considerations as well as health considerations. We have dubbed it the SMART School concept. If you have healthy schools, and you have safe schools, and you have green schools, then you are deemed to have SMART schools from the BVI concept.”

Ms. DaBreo appeared on a panel discussing best practices for building resilience in the education sector.

“Since we entrust our future generations into the schools, we consider them critical components of infrastructure. Adopting the SMART concept makes our schools as resilient as possible, giving our students the best chance at being able to continue their education after the impact of a natural or man-made hazard,” Ms. DaBreo said.

The theme for the two-day forum was Educational Resilience: Exploring the Possibilities, and sees attendees from around the region working together to update the Caribbean Regional Roadmap on School Safety, among other goals related to the Caribbean Safe Schools Initiative.

The event was organised in close collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). It was possible thanks to financial support from the Department of the European Commission for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).