School Safety and Disaster Risk Management are top priorities for the Ministry of Education in order to create safe environments for children and teachers.
This was accentuated at the opening session of a four-day Mission being held by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with the Presidential Agency on International Cooperation of Colombia.
The team from Colombia comprises of Secretary of Education Colombia, Mr. Miguel Ochoa, and other education officers including representatives from the University Of Antioquia Colombia. The Mission is geared at facilitating the transfer of Risk Management and School Safety knowledge between Guyanese and the Colombian contingent.
According to Mr. Sherwin Blackman, District Education Officer and Coordinator of the Mission, the partnership started over a year ago between the Education Ministry, EPA and the Government of Columbia.
He said that the goal is to create a mobile system to teach risk management and first aid for the benefit of schools. He said that it is important that when discussing the issue of risk management, it must be understood not only in the context of natural disasters but other social issues.
Regional Education Officer (Region 10), Ms. Marcia Paddy, said that in May 2018, a representative from the Education Ministry (Mr. Sherwin Blackman) and the EPA represented Guyana in Colombia in an exploratory visit to gain experience in disaster risk management in schools.
“This was with the understanding that Guyana will do its part in implementing processes that will result in safer and greener educational facilities, that the education sector will work towards the continued reducing of risk at schools and establish an ideal, yet adaptable approach to risks management at the school level,” Ms. Paddy noted.
As a result, she recalled that in 2017 three schools participated in a competition and were assessed locally based on the vulnerability assessment. These schools were Diamond Secondary, South Ruimveldt Secondary and Tucville Secondary.
Following this competition, Ms. Paddy said that action plans with recommendations for improving each of the named school’s safety and disaster risk reduction plan were designed.
Moreover, she noted that the Model Safe School Programme is being piloted at three other schools – St. John’s College, Richard Ishmael Secondary School and Dolphin Secondary School.
Executive Director of the EPA, Dr. Vincent Adams said that although Guyana is not affected by any major natural disaster, it is still vulnerable since it is below sea level. He said that risk management and risk analysis will teach Guyanese, especially children, how to be prepared and what to do if certain situations arise. Dr. Adams added that with climate change being inevitable, preparedness is necessary.