The Virgin Islands’ SMART Schools programme was hailed as a model for the region during the second annual Caribbean Safe Schools Ministerial Forum held Monday and Tuesday in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The two-day forum was attended by Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio Wheatley, the minister of education, culture, agriculture, fisheries, sports and youth affairs, along with his permanent secretary Dr. Marcia Potter and Department of Disaster Management Director Sharleen DaBreo.

The officials recounted the SMART programme’s history in the VI since DDM issued its first Safe School certification more than five years ago, and explained how the SMART programme grew out of Safe Schools.

Also during the forum, Dr. Wheatley took part in a ministerial panel on school safety, explaining that the passage of the 2017 hurricanes highlighted the need for all educational facilities to implement comprehensive systems designed to protect students.

“Now it’s very clear that we have to build resilience,” Dr. Wheatley said. “We in the BVI have broadened that into a cross-sectoral framework which includes environmental considerations as well as health considerations.”

Ms. DaBreo appeared on a panel about best practices for building resilience in education.

Forum attendees from around the region also worked together to update the Caribbean Regional Roadmap on School Safety, among other goals related to the Caribbean Safe Schools Initiative.

The event was organised in collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency; UNICEF; UNESCO; and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.

Financial support was provided by the Department of the European Commission for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.