Around the world, the increase in frequency and intensity of natural hazards and crises threatens many countries. Guyana is no exception. Flood, drought, fire, and pandemics are some of the many natural risks that devastate learning communities in Guyana and hinder citizens’ access to quality education.
In recent years, the Government of Guyana has promoted several measures to strengthen the capacities, reduce the vulnerabilities, and improve the resilience of our communities by developing tools for disaster risk management. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 highlighted the need to prepare for risks in the education sector. While the Ministry was able to use remote modalities to ensure contact with students and teachers and support learning continuity throughout the pandemic, many communities, especially in the Hinterland and Riverine locations, could not access digital learning modalities, exacerbating already existing disparities.
As a Ministry, we recognize the importance of strengthening disaster risk reduction within the education sector to build our resilience, save lives and protect the right to education. We are also committed to meet the international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Addressing these obligations, the Ministry of Education, in close collaboration with Heads of Department of Education, and with the technical support of the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO) and UNICEF, has developed this National Risk Management Policy for the Education Sector in Guyana.
This policy aims to improve risk management measures within the education sector and provide national guidance on disaster management. This policy shall become a reference document that will provide regional education officers with the appropriate tools to plan and manage risks relevant to their specific geographic areas.
This policy is another significant achievement for the Ministry of Education, and I am confident that it will spark other national initiatives towards building a disaster-resilient Guyana.
Hon. Minister Priya Manickchand, Minister of Education
Every year, Guyana faces devastating losses caused by disasters. Guyana’s Civil Defence Commission (CDC) has identified several natural and human-made hazards which significantly impact communities and for which risk reduction measures should be implemented. These include: flood, fire, oil spill, drought, river mishap, airport disaster, terrorism and pandemics. Besides, the climate and geography patterns of Guyana make the country particularly prone to climate change. All of these risks can affect the provision of quality education, limiting access for Guyana’s children, youth and lifelong learners, and impacting on the efficient and effective management of the education system.
The COVID-19 crisis has shed light on the far-reaching consequences that such disasters can have on education. Indeed, in order to mitigate the effects of the COVID-I9 pandemic, the Ministry of Education (MoE) took the decision to close all education institutions in the hope of curbing the spread of the pandemic. While the MoE was able to use remote modalities to maintain links between students and teachers, in many communities, non-existent or limited digital learning systems – particularly in remote populations and poor households – meant that students were not able to continue learning. As a result, already-existing disparities in the provision of education were exacerbated.
To withstand such crises in the future, it is essential for the MoE to have sufficient institutional, organizational and individual capacities for crisis risk management in place at both central and sub-national levels. The need for risk management capacities in the education sector is increasingly recognized in Guyana. The CDC’s emergency plan refers to education and recognizes the important role that education can play in mitigating the impacts of disasters.
To further reinforce the MoE’s capacities at central and sub-national levels to be prepared for and prevent the impacts of crises and ensure education continuity during and after a crisis hits, the MoE has decided to develop a national risk management policy for the education sector in Guyana. Anchored in the Education Strategic Plan (ESP) 2021-2025 – Vision 2030, this strategy also contributes to the ESP’s overarching priorities, i.e. improving governance and accountability, efficiency of the education system and reducing inequities in education.
The vision of the Disaster Risk Management strategy is to improve risk management measures within the education sector.