Risk Management Policy for education sector launched
Fire, oil spills, drought, pollution, pandemics, and other natural and human-made hazards constantly threaten the stability of the education system all across the world and Guyana is no exception.
Faced with these recurrent challenges, officials here have created the first national risk management policy for the education sector, which is essentially a blueprint for disaster risk reduction and management.
While not specific to only COVID-19, the new policy was borne out of the realization that the country – like many others – was not ready for the disruption brought on by the pandemic.
When the pandemic reared its head in Guyana, the Education Ministry moved quickly to close schools and shifted to remote learning but this presented a challenge as many communities, especially in the hinterland and riverain areas, could not access digital learning.
And that situation, along with the threats of climate change, highlighted the necessity of developing capacities for risk management in education.
According to the Chief Education Officer (CEO), Dr. Marcel Hutson, the overarching goal of the policy is to overtime, eradicate those very issues that stymie the movement of the education system.
“[The] COVID-19 pandemic has created a consciousness of the far-reaching consequences of such disasters, inclusive of disease outbreaks, that can have the education system and our need to be prepared as a sector for such eventualities,” the CEO highlighted.
Such conditions, Dr. Hutson added, tend to “exacerbate the vulnerabilities of boys and girls, the disadvantaged socio-economic population groups, as well as learners with disabilities,” thereby reinforcing the already existing inequities.
He explained that the policy was developed through a collaborative effort with local and international stakeholders and regional education officers across Guyana who will be rolling it out.
Providing an in-depth look at the policy, Chief Education Officer (CEO) for the Nursery level, Samantha Williams (ag) explained that 34 regional and national education officers were exposed to a three-module crash course in planning for education in emergencies.
That crash course created the three main focus pillars for the Risk Management Policy; access to education, quality teaching and learning, and management and coordination.
She explained that the policy has two built-in features to aid its successful implementation and this includes a detailed communication and training strategy.
“We intend to have prompt rehabilitation and construction of education facilities, we intend to ensure that there is strategic procurement, distribution, and the establishment of digital infrastructure to support ICT for quality of teaching and learning.
“We will also ensure that there is access to quality teaching and learning materials, and of course, safe conducive environments for children,” Williams outlined.
Meanwhile, UNICEF representative Nicolas Pron, who attended the launch virtually, lauded the Education Ministry’s efforts to create a policy that understands the realities of their communities.
It was outlined that once schools are able to re-open, the Ministry of Education will commence the full roll-out of the new risk management policy among schools, education leaders, and students.
Further, the Education Ministry is also working on aligning specific actions from the policy with the 2022 education budget to address risks head-on and protect education for all.
A copy of the 88-page document can be found on the Ministry’s website at education.gov.gy.