Delivering quality education services is one of the most impactful drivers of sustainable development, but around the world, natural hazards are adversely affecting children’s opportunities for education. Natural hazards not only cause immediate harm through the destruction of school infrastructure, but have lasting effects through the physical and mental stress endured by students and teachers, as well as the prolonged recovery of education services due to emergency response and reconstruction. Resilient school infrastructure is vital to ensuring the quality of learning environments, and this is especially true in a country like Nicaragua, which is highly exposed to a wide range of natural hazards, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. According to the World Bank’s Global Baseline of School Infrastructure, under the Global Library of School Infrastructure, the average annual loss caused by earthquake damage to schools in Nicaragua amounts to $7.27 million, and earthquakes are responsible for 58 fatalities in schools annually.
The World Bank, as part of its Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS), has been implementing the Alliance for Education Quality Project to improve teaching quality as well as to improve physical learning conditions in targeted schools in Nicaragua. The Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries has been supporting such efforts through the technical assistance grant, “Informing WBG lending operations financing resilient school infrastructure in Central America”. The technical assistance has been supporting investment planning and implementation of school infrastructure investments to the governments of Nicaragua and El Salvador. In the case of Nicaragua, it is providing technical support to the Alliance for Education Quality Project, as well as strengthening the technical capacity of the Ministry of Education (MINED) in its planning and management of school infrastructure.
On February 2, 2022, a meeting was held by MINED and the World Bank to overview the technical support provided thus far through GPSS to Nicaragua. The Government of Nicaragua was represented by Minister-Advisor to the President for Education, Mr. Salvador Vanegas, and the meeting was also attended by Mr. Yasuhisa Suzuki, Ambassador of Japan to Nicaragua, as well as representatives of the JICA Nicaragua Office.
During the meeting, MINED provided a summary of the technical assistance provided during 2021. Capacity training sessions were delivered through video conferencing to over 30 members of staff of the General Division of School Infrastructure at MINED. Different topics were covered over the course of 40 sessions, in which the participants learned general theoretical concepts, gained practical experience, and reviewed past experiences from other Latin American countries regarding resilient school infrastructure, and how they might be applied to Nicaragua. Ambassador Suzuki pointed out the importance of being prepared to face risks and disasters, in a comprehensive manner that goes beyond resilient infrastructure, and also appreciated the work carried out by MINED with the support of the technical assistance provided.
Apart from the capacity training discussed during the meeting, since 2020 this technical assistance has supported the governments of Nicaragua and El Salvador to continuously improve their technical basis for resilient school infrastructure, particularly in the field of investment planning, pre-investment studies, climate-resilient school designs and project supervision to currently ongoing WBG operations. Furthermore, the analytical work carried out is providing knowledge and tools for the design of school infrastructure strategies, policies, and investments across Central America. This work is summarized in three technical notes that will be finalized in the next quarter.
The experience of Japan in addressing technical, institutional, legal, and financial challenges to improve the safety of school infrastructure countrywide has been instrumental in the preparation of global tools and in the implementation of this technical assistance in Central America. Moreover, design principles adopted by architects in Japan have been a reference for the improvement of design practices in Central America. The technical notes under preparation have been informed by Japanese expertise, for example, from the “Quality Infrastructure Investment Framework” supported by the Government of Japan in the WBG and OECD, the “Design Principles” presented by Japanese architect, Takaharu Tezuka at a session organized by GPSS during the 2020 Understanding Risk Forum, as well as some other research on transmission areas of COVID-19 and the relevance of ventilation.
The World Bank Group will continue working to reduce risk and increase the resilience of school infrastructure, as well as promoting infrastructure that fosters inclusion, ecological consciousness and prepares children for the challenges of the future.