April 16, 2014978Views

Three more schools in the British Virgin Islands have
attained SAFE School certification, bringing to 17 the total number of schools
with such certification in the Territory.

The three, all of which are located on sister islands,
are the Claudia Creque Educational Centre on Anegada, the Jost Van Dyke School
and the Jost Van Dyke Methodist Church Early Childhood Development Centre.

The certification is awarded to schools following an
assessment to ensure that they meet the minimum requirements established in the
School Health and Safety Policy. The assessment checklist includes factors such
as location of the school, design, retrofitting, evacuation and disaster
planning procedures.

Schools are
required to score a minimum of 80 percent on the assessment checklist to be
awarded the SAFE School certification, which is valid for three years. In
addition to the SAFE School certificate, the school officials were also
presented with the SAFE School seal which can be affixed to the school

The newly certified schools did not initially meet the minimum
requirements for certification but remedial work was undertaken including the
installation of fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, signage, laboratory safety
equipment and the development of evacuation maps and disaster management
plans.  Mould resistant paint was also
purchased and used on internal walls. These activities resulted in the schools
surpassing the minimum requirements when re-assessed recently.

Information and Education Manager at the Department of
Disaster Management (DDM), Ms. Philomena Robertson presented school officials
with their certificates this week and commended them for being committed to
undertaking the remedial work necessary to attain certification.

 “The remedial
work done on the three schools was made possible through a project funded by
the Government of Brazil and executed jointly by the Caribbean Disaster
Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation
of the United Nations (FAO). We also had support from
New Horizon Ferry Service and North
Queen Investment Limited which readily agreed to transport
the materials to Jost
Van Dyke and Anegada at no cost. With the limited funding available to the DDM,
partnerships such as these go a long way in helping us to execute our mandate
to build resilience within communities,” Ms. Robertson stated.

“It is also heartening to witness the level of
community involvement the SAFE School Project is the generating. On Anegada for
example, the Anegada Zonal Disaster Management Team was instrumental in
executing the remedial work at the lone education facility on the island. The
DDM spearheaded the formation of this group last year and we are truly
heartened to see them taking their role as disaster risk reduction ambassadors
seriously,” the DDM official added.

With 17 schools in the BVI now certified SAFE, the DDM
is definitely making some inroads but there is still a lot to be done. “With 63
schools and daycare centres registered in the BVI, we have merely scratched the
surface but the DDM is committed to ensuring that all educational institutions
become certified. Based on the growing level of enthusiasm among educators, we
are confident we will get there,” she expressed.

Schools which
have already received the SAFE School certification are encouraged to work
towards the SMART School designation which will be awarded based on a
combination of health and safety requirements and climate change initiatives or
green practices. The schools eligible to pursue SMART School certification have
already been provided with a checklist of green initiatives that they will be
assessed on in the coming years. Among the initiatives being recommended are
reduced energy consumption and waste generation and improved air quality.