The British Virgin Islands (BVI) Seventh-day Adventist School and the Little Litehous Child Development Centre are the first two schools in the Territory to receive SMART School certification from the Department of Disaster Management (DDM) and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
The schools were presented with SMART School plaques on Tuesday, March 8 by representatives of the DDM and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Culture, Dr. Marcia Potter.
In addition to awarding SMART School designations, the DDM also certified the Ebenezer Thomas Primary School as a SAFE School.
Dr. Potter applauded the schools for undertaking the necessary requirements to become SAFE and SMART Schools and the DDM for taking a keen interest in ensuring that all schools in the Territory are certified by 2018.
Dr. Potter stated, “I congratulate the schools for achieving this level of certification and encourage them to maintain their status and I encourage the Ebenezer Thomas Primary School to advance to the next level to obtain the SMART Schools certification. I would also like to commend the DDM team on the excellent work they continue to do and for ensuring that we are working in connection with the global advocacy efforts to make schools safe from disasters.”
The One Million Safe Schools initiative, promoted by the United Nations, encourages people, organisations, companies and governments to pledge to make schools resilient to disasters.
Dr. Potter explained that the Ministry is working with the DDM to ensure that there is minimal disruption to learning opportunities and avoidance of loss of lives when a disaster strikes.
Dr. Potter added, “The Ministry, through the School Health and Safety Policy developed in 2011 and the ongoing efforts to provide licensing standards for schools, is keen on raising public awareness and creating a demand for SAFE and SMART schools throughout the Territory. We want to ensure that our children and our teachers are working and learning in safe, healthy and environmentally friendly environments.”
Deputy Director of the DDM, Evangeline Inniss-Springer praised the newly certified SAFE and SMART institutions for understanding the significance of ensuring that they provide a healthy, safe and green learning environment for children to thrive.
She explained that “a prerequisite for schools to be certified as SMART institutions is the SAFE schools certification which scores schools based on a health and safety assessment which includes location, design, construction, retrofitting, environment, play grounds as well as evacuation and disaster planning procedures”.
Mrs. Springer said, “Having achieved the SAFE School designation, the Seventh-day Adventist School and the Little Litehous Child Development Centre undertook further assessment based on the SMART check list which requires schools to combine the health and safety requirements with climate change adaptation initiatives or green practices promoted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, such as recycling, conserving water and installing energy efficient bulbs, among others.”
The DDM Deputy Director has also encouraged other schools to become SAFE and SMART institutions.
The SMART School initiative was funded by the Government of Austria through a Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) led project. The project follows the successful roll out of the pilot SAFE School Project in 2013 at the three schools located in Sea Cows Bay. The SMART School initiative was adapted from the PAHO Safe Hospitals and Smart Health Care Facilities in the Caribbean Project.
Nineteen schools throughout the Territory have achieved the Safe School certification and are now eligible to advance to the SMART Schools certification level. These 19 schools are expected to be recertified by November of this year.