Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools: Promoting Disaster Resilience in the Education Sector

Written by
Hannah Poquette, GADRRRES Coordinator
Disaster Risk Reduction - Preparedness and Contingency Planning

Comprehensive School Safety was recently highlighted during the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction 2017 at a side event entitled "Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools: Promoting Disaster Resilience in the Education Sector".

Panelists at the side event: "Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools: Promoting Disaster Resilience in the Education Sector".This event, hosted by the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES), promoted the work of the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools and brought together school safety experts from Cuba, Pakistan, China, and Thailand with panelists representing a variety of roles including National Disaster Management authorities, Ministry of Education (MOE) authorities, researchers, and civil society.  The panelists discussed five key questions, sharing what has been learned about effective school safety efforts in each of their country contexts.

Even though it was one of the very last events of the Global Platform and was hosted at a conference site on the beautiful beaches of Cancun, Mexico, the event gathered a large audience, demonstrating the importance of school safety in disaster risk reduction (DRR). The main discussion points from each question and panelist are given below. A full list of the panelists and additional information is available in a final report of the event.

1. What role does education play in reducing disaster risk and building resilience?

The speakers from China and Thailand discussed how education ensures that the community has a shared understanding of the risks they are facing and provides a means to transfer knowledge and experience to the next generation. This then creates the foundation for building resilience in the community.


2. How can we encourage National Disaster Management Committees (NMDC) and MOEs to work more effectively together on school safety?

The panelists from Cuba and Pakistan shared their experiences working collaboratively across government agencies. In both countries, the NDMC and the MOE are involved in school safety efforts, each providing their respective expertise as well as support to each other. Taking an inter-sectoral approach to school safety and ensuring collaboration between agencies in monitoring the school safety initiative were emphasized by the speakers as important components of successful work in this area.


3. What are we learning about innovative approaches to data collection and partnerships that are advancing resilience in the education sector?

The panelist from Save the Children shared that new technologies are now available, giving communities the opportunity to conduct self-assessments and receive tailored, school-level guidance for next steps in school safety.  The recent development of Comprehensive School Safety (CSS) Targets and Indicators also allows stakeholders to conduct accurate monitoring and interrogate how well CSS efforts are doing at the school level.

The importance of regional partnerships was shared by the panelist from Thailand. The ASEAN School Safety Initiative (ASSI) provides an example of a regional partnership that utilizes the three pillars of school safety (Safe Learning Facilities, School Disaster Management, and Risk Reduction and Resilience Education) as a framework around which member states collaborate to support school safety efforts.


4. What really works in engaging communities in CSS?

In China, it has been important for engagement to move beyond teachers and students to include the broader community and NGO partners. Key messages have been used to create family-oriented approach, which has provided integration and coherence. In Cuba, school safety work is done in consultation with communities which supports their motivation and empowerment. For school safety projects and practices to be effective, the needs of the community, families, and students must all be addressed. 


5. What are the most important ways in which governments can be safe school leaders?

The joint advocacy work of the NDMC, leaders in the education sector, and civil society was cited as key by the panelist from Save the Children.  National coordination mechanisms must be used to bring all stakeholders together under the leadership of the MOE.

In the experience of Pakistan, developing national policies to support school safety have been crucial to the Pakistan School Safety Initiative.  The panelist from Pakistan also shared that translating these policies into action by allocating the necessary resources and ensuring capacity development is also an important part of the government’s leadership on school safety.


Key recommendations coming out of the event included:CSSF Venn Diagram

  • National school safety policies must be in place to provide an enabling environment for school safety efforts.
  • There must be collaboration and coordination between the NDMC and the MOE as well as other stakeholders to effectively address school safety.
  • Resources must be provided through national budgets for school safety initiatives and efforts.
  • Communities, families, and students must be engaged to identify the specific needs of the community and shape school safety practices accordingly.
  • Data collection should be utilized to assist communities in identifying next steps to take for school safety and to monitor the progress of school safety efforts.

Specific recommendations and examples for the implementation of the Sendai Framework were also discussed and include:

  • Governments should provide technical oversight to make sure that every new school is a safe school.
  • Existing schools must be assessed and triaged to find out those that need retrofit and replacement.
  • Guidance and standards on School Disaster Management need to be developed and integrated into existing school management processes.
  • Nationally adapted and adopted action-oriented key messages for family risk reduction and resilience provide the potential for consistent messaging and coherent school safety efforts.
  • Comprehensive School Safety Targets and Indicators should be used to monitor school safety efforts.
  • Cuba has developed an approach to DRR in education that is inter-sectoral and integrated across agencies.  School safety projects are developed in consultation with communities to address local needs.
  • Pakistan has worked with UNICEF to develop the Pakistan School Safety Initiative, a contextualized school safety framework created collaboratively by the NDMO and the MOE to provide a policy base for school safety efforts in Pakistan.
  • The ASEAN School Safety Initiative (ASSI) provides an example of regional collaboration to address comprehensive school safety amongst member states.
  • Key Messages are being used in China to support both school-based education and education for families to provide a coherent approach to DRR. Students are engaged in playing out the scenarios of the key messages.

GADRRRES LogoGADRRRES members include the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Plan International, Save the Children, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SAMEO), United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), with Regional Affiliates including Disaster Risk Management Education Sector Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia Pacific Coalition for School Safety.


Hannah Poquette served as the Coordinator for the Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector (GADRRRES) and currently works as an education research analyst in the United States. She recently graduated from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) with a master’s degree in International Affairs, concentrating in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy.  She also holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


The views expressed in this blog are the author's own.