NEMA collaborates with SKNRCS and USAID OFDA/LAC RDAP on the School Safety Project

Goal to set guidelines for disaster management plans in the nation’s schools

[20th August, 2013] – The St. Kitts and Nevis Red Cross Society (SKNRCS), in collaboration with the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis via the Ministry of Education, is undertaking a school safety project that is funded by the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) through the OFDA/LAC RDAP (Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance/Latin America and the Caribbean’s Regional Disaster Assistance Programme).

The project, entitled “Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction in Schools in St. Kitts and Nevis through the Strengthening of the School Safety Programme” aims to reduce the vulnerability of schools and students to disasters and to increase the capacity of those schools, the students and officials, to manage and to respond to the risks associated with disasters that may occur while school is in session.

“This project seeks above all else”, according to Kerrie Greene, Red Cross’s Disaster Coordinator, “the implementation of a policy to guide the preparation and completion of Disaster Risk Management Plans for schools and by extension, the approximately 12,000 students in the Federation, who attend them.”

Mrs. Greene has touted the school safety project as being both important and relevant to the sustainability of the education infrastructure in the Federation. Building on the limited success of the original phase of the School Safety Programme, which commenced in March of 2011, a stakeholder meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, 21st August, 2013, from 9am to 3pm at NEMA Headquarters, Lime Kiln. In addition to the goal of setting standards for school emergency plans, a video production that guides schools through plan implementation and a provision of safety equipment and paraphernalia to schools in furtherance of their emergency plans, is intended.

When first conceptualised, the School Safety Programme brought together thirty stakeholders to deliberate on the outputs of a School Safety Workshop, where public school teachers were trained, in an effort to develop emergency response capacity, in schools.

Also of critical importance, was the decision to mandate that both public and private schools participate, including engaging in regular emergency drills, beginning the end of 2011. Senior Education Officer, Dr. Michael Blake advised at the time that since no one knows with any certainty where our children will be, in the face of any hazard or impending disaster, “…our best defence is to prepare our teachers and our students, to respond in any eventuality.”

The programme was actually conceptualised by Blake years before its rebirth in 2011. Back then it lost steam at the behest of a variety of resource related challenges and hindrances according to Blake, but has enjoyed a renaissance in recent times, even funding the Nation’s “Drop, Cover and Hold On”! ads, currently being aired in local media.

National Disaster Coordinator, Carl Herbert has said “Our best response to hazards is determined by our level of preparedness and leaving our children unprepared, leaves our efforts exposed and vulnerable. Their survival, as well as the survival of others, might depend upon what they do or do not know.”

Schools were subsequently charged with preparing disaster plans and sensitising students to all hazard response activities, in collaboration with NEMA, and in advance of the programme’s commencement.

“It is from that standpoint”, Mrs. Greene says, “that we are now moving the programme forward, through the creation of a policy document that realises the primary goal of this project.”

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