KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, May 1, 2019 – Five (5) countries: Curacao, Grenada, Jamaica, Sint Marteen and Suriname adhered to the Caribbean Safe School Initiative and adopt the Antigua and Barbuda Declaration on School Safety during the 2nd Caribbean Safe School Ministerial Forum. The forum was held from April 29 to 30, 2019 in Kingstown and hosted by the Ministry of Education, National Reconciliation, Ecclesiastical Affairs and Information.
In 2017, 12 countries adhered to the initiative and signed the Antigua and Barbuda Declaration on School Safety in the Caribbean. At the second Ministerial Forum, ten Ministers of Education, officials in the education sector as well as disaster management stakeholders, regional and international partners participated in technical discussions on school safety and updated the Regional RoadMap for School Safety.
The Minister of Education, National Reconciliation and Information of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Minister St. Clair Prince, commented in regard to the Caribbean Safe School Initiative that “The 2nd Ministerial Forum has served to renew the commitment to build the resilience of the education sector in the Caribbean region”. He also added that “I am also committed as the incoming chair for this forum to ensure that School Safety in the Caribbean remains a priority nationally, regionally and internationally”.
This second forum was also linked to a Youth Forum “My Island, My Life, which provided an opportunity for youth to add their voices and join the discussion on school safety and identify safety issues around the three pillars of the Comprehensive School Safety Framework: safe learning facilities (disaster-resilient infrastructure), school disaster management; and, disaster risk reduction and resilience education. The conclusions and recommendations of the Youth Forum were presented during the Ministerial Forum.
At the Forum closing Sint Marteen announced they will host the 3rd Caribbean Safe School Ministerial Forum in 2021 and British Virgin Islands (BVI) will be hosting the 4th Forum in 2023.
The Caribbean is a region of high exposure to multiple natural hazards including hurricanes, floods, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, windstorms, tsunamis, landslides and droughts. Vulnerability combined with exposure to such hazards can serve to drastically undermine poverty reduction strategies, hinder development gains and jeopardize educational systems. Such events, if left unmitigated, can lead to devastating consequences to a nation’s economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
The importance of school safety had also been long acknowledged in the Caribbean. The 2014-2024 Comprehensive Disaster Management strategy calls for increased and sustained knowledge management and learning for Comprehensive Disaster Management, as well as standardization and improvement of educational and training materials.
The 2nd Caribbean Ministerial Forum was the result of a partnership between the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO), UNICEF, GADRRRES, OECS, UNESCO, U NISDR and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA).