More than 30 representatives from the Ministry of Education, National Disaster Management Office, non-government organisations and other development partners are taking part in a workshop to discuss ways of establishing safe schools before, during and in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
While opening a two-day National Workshop for Priority Setting for School Safety in Suva today, Ministry of Education acting permanent secretary, Kelera Taloga said they are now supporting a strategic approach to assessment, planning and implementation of Comprehensive School Safety and Policy Framework.
This will ensure that all school facilities across the country are structurally safe during disasters and to ensure appropriate school disaster management practices are effectively implemented.
Mrs Taloga said exchange of ideas and experiences during the workshop will assist the Education Ministry in planning school safety as well as strengthening the Safe Schools Programme across Fiji.
“The ministry has put in a lot of effort to ensure that students and all workers of the Ministry of Education are protected in schools; that teaching and learning can still continue in the face of disaster. Education sector investments must be safeguarded from the impacts of reoccurring hazards,” Mrs Taloga said.
Alluding to the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Evan in 2012, Mrs Taloga said severe flooding had affected almost 10 per cent of schools in the country.
“Five per cent of the schools were damaged in some way or another while the other 5 per cent were being used as evacuation centres.
“This also means working towards making all school facilities structurally safe and able to protect children during disaster, to ensure appropriate school disaster management practices are effectively implemented,” Mrs Taloga highlighted.
A major focus of the workshop is teaching risk reduction and resilience education in schools to build a culture of safety in schools and communities.
“It is vital that we ensure children’s right to education is protected as a priority. We have one of the highest average annual disaster loss as a percentage of our Gross Domestic Product. This is the very reason why the Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring safe schools,” Mrs Taloga said.
Save the Children’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation manager, Nick Ireland said they hope to play a constructive role in helping Government set the policy for school safety as well as implementing it.
“The policy environment in Fiji is particularly strong. It is obvious that the Ministry of Education has considered many aspects of school safety. Policy environment is the foundation of what needs to be done but to implement the policy environment is another vital element with a whole range of activities and people involved,” Mr Ireland said.
Representatives from UNICEF, GIZ, UNDP and Access to Quality Education (AQEP) are also part of the workshop, which will end tomorrow.