United States & Barbados Cooperate to Ensure Student Safety
The United States, in cooperation with the Barbados Ministry of Education, continues to build the capacity of Barbados schools to plan for and respond to disasters. In the latest joint effort ending on February 24, the School Safety Course, nine local instructors worked with teachers and staff from across Barbados to establish a task force that will develop a school safety program for Barbados. The School Safety Program, led by the Ministry of Education with U.S. assistance, will lead to the development of a national policy, hazard identification, training, contingency plan development and a series of simulation exercises and drills.
The School Safety Course, implemented by the United States Agency for International Development and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), has been making schools throughout Latin America and the Caribbean safer places for students and staff since the early 1990s. Over the last three years, USAID/OFDA has worked with the Shelter and Shelter Management Program coordinated by the Ministry of Education in Barbados, to build local capacity through shelter management courses.
The Schools Safety Course provides teachers and other staff with the concepts and tools necessary to reduce disaster risks and produce emergency preparedness and response plans for their schools. The participants in the School Safety Program Workshop in February included: the Department of Emergency Services; police and fire departments; the Town Planning Department; the Architects Association; the Professional Engineers Association; teachers unions; and the NGO community including the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance Association and district emergency organizations.
“The School Safety Course has served as an entry point for USAID/OFDA to work with public education ministries and universities throughout the region to promote not only emergency preparedness but also disaster risk reduction in general. Through the course, governments and university leaders have seen the need to incorporate disaster risk reduction into planning processes and policies and university thinking and curricula,” explained disaster risk management specialist Manuel Ramírez, who coordinates the Regional Disaster Assistance Program education component.
Efforts to promote the school safety initiative at the national level have resulted in the signing of several memorandums of understanding between USAID/OFDA and national government education officials and universities, calling for mutual assistance in the development of programs and activities related to disaster risk reduction education and technical assistance for the community.
“OFDA is contributing to the creation of a culture of disaster risk awareness in schools and universities, not only by incorporating risk reduction measures but also by facilitating simulation exercises so that students, teachers, and school administrators know what to do when disaster strikes,” said LAC Regional Advisor Sidney Velado.