Each year, natural disasters have devastating effects on children’s education in developing countries. The 2015 earthquake in Nepal resulted in the collapse of 5,000 schools, damaged 30,000 classrooms, and disrupted the education of 1 million children. More recently, Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 damaged over 730 schools in Haiti. Frequently, countries suffer great tragedy when natural disasters destroy schools and disrupt children’s education.
To address this challenge, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery’s (GFDRR) Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS) aims to make school facilities and the communities they serve more resilient to natural hazards. The program works to reduce the physical impact of disasters on school infrastructure and minimize the negative educational outcomes that result from disasters. Activities supported by the program focus on helping ministries of education avoid the creation of new risks and reduce existing risks through risk-informed construction and retrofitting of school infrastructure.
In this context, GPSS, in collaboration with its partners, hosted a two-day workshop, “A Roadmap for Safer Schools” from January 30-31 in London, United Kingdom. The workshop focused on the integration of risk considerations into education infrastructure, and included five sessions following the steps in the Roadmap: i) Establishing a School Infrastructure Baseline; ii) Understanding the Construction Environment; iii) Understanding the Financial Environment; iv) Disaster Risk Assessments; and v) Safer School Investment Opportunities. A special session on ensuring safety and quality of schools in post-disaster contexts was also part of the agenda.
During the sessions, case studies from Japan, Nepal, New Zealand, Peru, the United States, and the East and Central Asia region were presented by experts from Arup International Development, Applied Technology Council, the World Bank Group, University College London, and University of Los Andes. The event gathered over 50 participants from ministries of education and other ministries involved in school construction and retrofitting, including representatives from Armenia, El Salvador, India, Jamaica, Malawi, and Nepal, as well representatives from the OECD Effective Learning Environments (LEEP) and GPSS partners.
During the workshop, Mr. Shoichiro Michibata, Subsection Chief, Local Facilities Aid Division, Department of Facilities Planning and Administration in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT) discussed how Japan, one of the most disaster prone countries , has financed a large-scale retrofitting program that successfully made school infrastructure more resilient to earthquakes. Tetsuji Kimura, Deputy Director at the Office for Disaster Prevention, Department of Facilities Planning and Administration at MEXT presented on Japan’s experience in addressing the multiple challenges associated to the implementation of large scale risk reduction programs in the education sector. Mr. Kimura’s presentation showcased how the political and technical spheres interacted in Japan to successfully improve the resilience of school infrastructure at a large scale. In concluding his remarks, Mr. Kimura emphasized how lessons from Japan can be utilized by developing countries that are considering embarking on similar risk reduction programs.
Within this framework, the report on the experience of Japan, "Making Schools Resilient at Scale: the Case of Japan", was launched during the workshop. Developed by GPSS, in partnership with the World Bank Tokyo DRM Hub, the report examines the program implemented by MEXT to improve the structural safety of thousands of schools across the country. Through the Japan-World Bank Program, the Government of Japan is now sharing its experience with other countries and financing activities to improve the safety of school infrastructure in Peru, El Salvador, Turkey, and the Philippines.
The workshop also served to launch the publication, “A Roadmap for Safer Schools,” developed by the GPSS team in collaboration with GFDRR and Arup International Development. The purpose of this Roadmap is to enable World Bank task team leaders (TTLs) to engage with ministries of education, finance, and public works within a country to promote informed investments in the safety of new or existing school infrastructure at risk from natural hazards.
“The Roadmap for Safer Schools is a contribution from the GPSS towards the critical need of generating evidence-based arguments to inform the design of vulnerability reduction investment plans for school infrastructure.” – Fernando Ramirez Cortes, Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist, World Bank
The specific objectives of the Roadmap are:
- To help the World Bank TTL identify entry points for Bank support (financing, policy reform, advisory services) to the education sector that facilitate the design and implementation of safer schools programs
- To influence policy reforms and wider investments in risk reduction that create safer school environments
- To inform long- term national strategies that prioritize school safety at scale and that relate to previous and ongoing activities in the education sector
Overall, the event provided a space for all participants, and especially government representatives, to connect with the various stakeholders working on safer schools as well as identify opportunities to strengthen risk reduction considerations in ongoing school infrastructure programs.
Financial support for the Global Program for Safer Schools is provided by the Government of Japan through the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming DRM in Developing Countries.