School safety, disaster risk management priorities for Education Ministry
School safety and disaster risk management are top priorities for the Education Ministry, in order to create safe environments for children and teachers.This was accentuated at the opening session of a four-day event being held by the Education Ministry in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in partnership with the Presidential Agency on International CooperationExecutive Director of the EPA, Dr Vincent Adamsof Colombia.The Mission is geared at facilitating the transfer of risk management and school safety between Guyanese and the Colombian contingent.According to District Education Officer Sherwin Blackman, Coordinator of the Mission, the partnership started over a year ago between the Education Ministry, EPA and the Government of Colombia.He said the goal is to create a mobile system to teach risk management and first-aid for the benefit of schools. He further stated that when discussing the issue of risk management, it must be understood not only in the context of natural disasters, but other social issues.Delivering the feature address on behalf of the Minister of Education was RegionalDistrict Education Officer Sherwin BlackmanEducation Officer (Region 10) Marcia Paddy, who said that, in May 2018, a representative from the Education Ministry (Sherwin Blackman) and the EPA had 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 risk management at the school level”, Paddy noted.She said the plan to address these issues is not haphazard in any way. Paddy further explained, “It is a structured, in-depth process that encompasses a variety of approaches and synergies. The Ministry of Education recognises the significance of risk management and school safety in the promotion of bestRegional Education Officer Marcia Paddypractices of risk management.”Additionally, she noted that, in 2017, the following 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, Paddy said, 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; these are St. John’s College, Richard Ishmael Secondary School and Dolphin Secondary School.She said the long-term expectations as a result of the training are geared at the development of comprehensive protocols for risk management equipment and to ensure teachers and students are trained as first responders with basic first-aid skills.Executive Director of the EPA, Dr Vincent Adams, said Guyana is a blessed country. He noted that, save for floods, the country is not affected by any major natural disaster.Despite this, he reminded that Guyana is still vulnerable, since it is below seaThe representatives from Colombia at today’s Mission engagementlevel. As such, he noted 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.Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Kester Craig, Director General of the Civil Defence Commission, said children are an important group, since they are strong and resilient, adapting to stresses that weaken most adults. However, he noted that children are still vulnerable.He said educational facilities need to be retrofitted to make the environment safe. According to the Director General, this needs to be done at both private and public schools, and with instruments that are simple, applicable and adaptable.Further, he said that personnel within the school system, including teachers, need to be trained and equipped to protect those persons who come under their charge.Secretary-General of the Guyana Red Cross, Dorothy Fraser, noted that training in the areas of risk management and school safety is imperative, so that young people, parents and teachers can know how to prevent disaster and administer aid.