UNESCO funded School Safety Programme launched with distribution of critical equipment

File Photo: Beach Allen School

(EMU) – St. Kitts, April 3, 2013: The UNESCO funded School Safety Programme launched in an impressive ceremony to mark the handing over of critical equipment in March, promises to revolutionize the learning experience for the Federation’s children as they learn in a more secure environment.

Government Schools in St. Kitts are now equipped with the tools necessary to ensure that children are kept safe during man made; natural disasters or other threatening circumstances which can occur while they are at school.

Education Planner Quinton Morton commended Senior Education Officer Michael Blake for his commitment to the School safety programme which was being consummated with the addition of the relevant equipment after the launch of the School Safety Manual earlier this year.

In response, Mr. Blake who spearheaded the proposal to UNESCO for assistance with the school safety programme said it was “an important step as it moves school safety from theory and ideal to practical action.”

He added, “A unit has been set up to ensure that teachers are trained in matters of security, school safety and disaster risk reduction and that such training would allow each school to have a calibre of teachers trained in disaster response. They must know what to do in any situation whether it’s an earthquake, a tsunami or a flash flood. Teachers must know what to do to ensure that injury to students and teachers and physical infrastructure is minimal.”

The training involved such services as the Fire and Rescue Services, Red Cross, St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force and the public works department among other partners.

Chief Education Officer, Clarice Cotton emphasized the fact that with all the other threats to children’s well being and safety, the school environment must make a positive difference and become a safe haven. “Children are supposed to feel safe, to be safe and we must put the necessary measures in place to ensure that they are safe,” Ms Cotton said.

Captain Walter Bass, Director of the School Safety Council which is charged with the responsibility to manage the programme, urged representatives of the schools present to each develop a preventative maintenance schedule that would ensure that the equipment would be ready for use at the time of demand.

“School safety is a critical component of our general Education thrust. It is well documented that quality Education will of necessity include the safety of schools’ physical premises, staff and students since no real teaching or learning can occur in an atmosphere of disorder and insecurity,” Mr. Morton underscored.

He also highlighted the importance of regular school drills. “We must be able at every emergency or live event to ensure that students are well aware of the path to safety; teachers and head teachers be aware of every plan,” said Captain Bass while offering the assistance of members of the council in that regard.

Secretary General of the National Commission for UNESCO, Mr. Antonio Maynard, said his Organization’s support of this project was due in large part to its focus on enhancing the educational experience for youth as well as its thrust to improve life in general thus the inclusion of School Safety as a central component of the School Curriculum was in keeping with UNESCO objectives.

“A UNESCO Study revealed that in 2011, 302 hazards resulted in disasters that claimed 30, 000 lives, affected 206 million people and inflicted damage worth US $366 billion dollars in damage. In the event of disasters children are the most affected. School systems are disrupted therefore affecting a fundamental right of children – The Right to Education,” Mr. Maynard said.

He urged school officials to ensure that the equipment is maintained; that they be kept secure and that a proper inventory system be put in place. He also asked that they keep their partnership with the School Safety Council high on their list of priorities.

To date the schools have received fire extinguishers, first aid kits, bull horns/megaphones, water boots, ladders, blocks, and electronic alarm bells among other things. They are also in the process of acquiring more as the ministry of Education is still in discussion with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Agency (CEDEMA).

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