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Thirty-seven persons from pre-primary to tertiary levels at public and private institutions across the Territory have been trained to ensure that their schools are safe, healthy and green.
The personnel were trained to use sustained mitigation, adaptation and resilient techniques (SMART) in a quadripartite arrangement with the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Culture, Dr. Marcia Potter expressed her appreciation to the various partners and DDM in particular for the efforts made over the years in coordinating the SMART Schools Programme.
Dr. Potter said, “DDM continues to work with us on the SMART Schools initiative and this has been a very successful arrangement; one that is now recognised globally. The ministry’s disaster management programme is built on four key elements: – making learning facilities safe and healthy; integrating disaster management practices into the curriculum; promoting climate adaptation and supporting resilient education.”
UNICEF’s Emergency Coordinator for in the BVI, Ms. Laura Ivey stated that the Territory’s SMART School initiative is an ideal model for how educational facilities can connect safe, green and healthy components. She said she was impressed with the work that is being done in the BVI which is in line with the UNICEF strategy that promotes the Worldwide Initiative on Safe Schools as well as the Caribbean Safe School Initiative that was adapted from the BVI SMART School programme.
Ms. Ivy also stated, “We were able to reach out to the Ministry and the DDM and we’re happy to support their efforts. We were particularly interested in ensuring that opportunities are given to the school to update or develop their multi-hazard disaster management plans, with specific emphasis on continuity of their operations. Our partnership with ADRA, following the impacts from the 2017 Hurricanes, has allowed us to continue to work with this organisation to support school-based initiatives.”
The Territory’s SMART Schools programme is in keeping with the United National Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GAD3RES) to promote coherent ad coordinated action on school safety globally.
Deputy Director at the DDM, Dr. Evangeline Inniss-Springer explained how the approach evolved and added that the SMART Schools Programme was modeled after the PAHO SMART Hospitals Initiative which is aimed at reducing vulnerability in critical facilities.
She said, “The emphasis is on environmental protection and in reducing the carbon footprint; pollution, energy and water consumption; promoting recycling, chemical management, improving air quality and strengthening surveillance and control.”
Dr. Inniss-Springer stated that the approach fosters multi sector agencies working together to promote community involvement and that the quadripartite arrangement was a good fit for this initiative.
The DDM’s Deputy Director further added, “We have called on our partners in the Financial Services to assist in ensuring protection of the material through copyright. The work of the Ministry and the DDM must be protected as this presents evidence of the level of knowledge and expertise that exists in the Territory and the opportunities for the Virgin Islands to promote its work regionally and globally”.
The SMART Schools training was held from June 25 to 28 and was facilitated by a local architectural firm, Trojan Design and Development Ltd. The firm developed the SMART Schools Toolkit in 2017 and tested it in a workshop. The training also included the use of tools that help to test lighting, air quality and energy consumption usage. Additional training for schools is also planned throughout the month of July and September this year.