UNDRR ROAMC: Investment in education creates more resilient societies

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction – Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - Headquarters
United Nations Children's Fund (Global Headquarters, New York)
Global Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience in the Education Sector

According to the latest evidence, investments in safe schools provide economic returns for society and also contribute to economic recovery.   They represent, then, a clear way to  finance risk reduction initiatives in the education sector, and are also a direct contribution to the creation of more resilient societies. 

The suspension of classes for more than a year, due to the pandemic, has not been duly dimensioned.  Until now. Education may well be one of the sectors most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. According to various analyses, students affected by school closures obtain 3% less income during their professional lives, which will mean an approximate GDP loss of 1.5% over the remainder of the century. The pandemic will also increase school desertion and will have a profound effect in learning processes for an entire generation, without taking into account systemic effects from school closures, such as increased malnutrition, mental health effects, and other vulnerabilities. 

These are devastating figures that demonstrate the need for schools and their safety to be a fundamental part of national budgetary preparations. Moreover, 3 out of 5 students who did not go to school last year live in Latin America and the Caribbean.  This was emphasized during the Virtual Caribbean Safe School Initiative Pre-Ministerial Forum, held between the 15th to the 26th of last March, which was oriented towards promotion of safety in Caribbean schools, and which is the regional mechanism for putting into practice a relationship between education and resilience, and at the same time, guaranteeing coordination. 

The sixth session of the Pre-forum: School safety investment as a Key Element of Economic Recovery, showed the importance of integrating readings learnt during this crisis in recuperation processes. 

“We should invest in the gathering and use of information for the observation and mapping of precise interventions, while at the same time modernizing our technological infrastructure, not only to be able to confront disasters, but also in regards to contemporary realities,” stated Fayval Willams, Minister of Education, Youth, and Information of Jamaica. 

According to João Pedro Azevedo, a World Bank economist, the educational system must prepare their teachers to confront lower learning levels and higher inequality levels. That is to say, to prepare them for the consequences of the pandemic. “Vulnerable sectors have been those most effected by the closures during the pandemic, since they have no access to necessary technology,” added Cynthia Hobbs, an education specialist from the Interamerican Development Bank. 

Andrew A. Fahie, Prime Minister of the British Virgin Islands, stated that reconstruction of the school system after the pandemic must be carried out with technology considered. “Inaction cannot be an action,” he stated. 

Funding priority

Kamal Ahmed, international disaster risk finance for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) elaborated further on the importance of investing into all aspects of school safety. “A school structure that collapses or closes interrupts nutritional programs, for example, which are a key element in social programs of many countries, and which at times are the only access to nutrition for many vulnerable children. In the case of the pandemic, if the child stays at home, and the father or mother must also stay, which reduces participation of that home in the labor market and therefore, their income,” stated Ahmed. “Investment in education produces amazing results, but also a lack of investment leaves surprising consequences.” 

According to Ahmed, governments should develop a comprehensive evaluation of schools, identifying strengths and capacities, in addition to creating a matrix with safe and resilient school strategies, fragile and marginal school strategies, and most vulnerable school strategies. Further, a program must be created to compensate for learning losses. 

From the financial point of view, added Ahmed, investment must be made in such a way as to reduce economic, social, environmental, physical, and lack of governance vulnerabilities. The Ministry of Education must be the priority in national budget preparation, which should projections not only for costs, but also emergency funds.  

Raúl Salazar, chief of UNDRR - Regional Office for the Americas and the Caribbean, stated that “loss of education increases gaps and inequality in the school system, and therefore social vulnerabilities. The disappearance of a large sector of the school population from the educational system, will create significant effects on all social systems, including the economic systems.”    This clearly underlines the dimensions of the systemic risk by its characteristics and requires us to confront them with a holistic and comprehensive vision.

In this sense, Fahie, Prime Minister of the British Virgin Islands, specified that 20% of the tax collection of 7% applied to financial services be directed to improvement of the school structure.  That is, risk reduction forms a permanent part of state expenditures.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is emphatic in this regard: “disaster risk reduction must be reinforced with the provision of sufficient resources through different financing mechanism, including large, stable, and predictable contributions to the Fiduciary Fund of the United Nations for Disaster Reduction, and with strengthening off the functionality off the Fiduciary Fund in relation to the application of this framework.”

The world initiative for Safe Schools was accepted by the States during the signing of the Sendai Framework, which has been in effect for six years as of the 18th of March.

“In order to go forward, we must do it together, in a comprehensive way, with inter-institutional and inter-sectorial effort that would employ the disaster management abilities of various sectors and put in motion well developed plans and strategies, which are financed and which are coherent with other large agencies, such as the Sustainable Development Objectives, and the Paris Agreement,” stated Mami Mizutori during the opening day of the Pre-Ministerial Forum, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Share this