Working Group 1 - Safe Learning Facilities

The main purpose of the Safe Learning Facilities Working Group is to support the global educational community in ensuring that every new school is a safe school, and that every existing school has been assessed in order to take the necessary steps to upgrade their safety (retrofit, remodeling, replacement, etc.).

As described in the Comprehensive School Safety Framework, safe learning facilities involves different stake-holders such as education authorities, planners, architects, engineers, builders, and school community members in different aspects related to the safety of schools, such as safe site selection, design, construction and maintenance (including safe access and continuous assessment to the facility).

GADRRRES members are involved in different regional and international programs aiming to:

Through the Safe Learning Facilities Working Group, GADRRRES members have been actively involved in the following activities:

1. Global Program for Safer Schools – GPSS

In 2014, GFDRR established the Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS). The aim of the Program is to make school facilities, and the communities they serve, more resilient to natural hazards. The Program's development objective is to save lives, reduce the physical impact of disasters on school infrastructure, and minimize the negative educational outcomes resulting from disaster.

The Program operates at two levels. At the country level, the Program leverages the World Bank's long-established relationships with ministries of finance, ministries of works, and ministries of education to integrate risk considerations into existing sizeable education sector investments. At the global level, the Program is working on creating an ability to quantify the global problem and measure progress towards its solution, as well as enabling global sharing and transfer of knowledge and experiences on school safety.

During its first year of implementation, the Program agreed to finance safer school interventions in the Philippines, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Peru. GFDRR continues to work on identifying new opportunities. At this moment, countries that are currently under consideration for financing during the second year of implementation include: Afghanistan, El Salvador, Jamaica, Samoa, and Tonga.

2. Community-Based Safe School Construction

Save the Children and GFDRR, through the 'Global Program for Safe School,' are seeking to address current knowledge gaps by developing guidance material on community-based safe school construction. In order to meet this objective, Save the Children and GFDRR partnered with Risk RED, a non-profit consulting group with expertise in DRR in the education sector, to develop a guidance document. This document is currently being developed in consultation with global experts and practitioners in the field of school safety. This collaboration will result in a guidance document that will address the following:

  1. Strategies for developing community awareness of, and support for, safe school construction, and
  2. Critical steps in the process of building safe schools – steps leading to school facilities able to withstand natural hazard events like earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, while also striving towards internationally recognized good practice in construction.

The guidance document has been designed to avoid duplication of efforts and complement existing technical guidance documents developed by other development partners, including INEE, UNESCO, GFDRR, UN-Habitat, ARUP, IFRC, and the IASC Shelter Cluster.

3. Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction

Developed in a widely consultative manner under the leadership of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and in partnership with the Coalition for Global School Safety and Disaster Prevention Education, the IASC Education Cluster, and the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, these Guidance Notes provide a framework of guiding principles and general steps to develop a context-specific plan to address a critical gap to reaching the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through the disaster resilient construction and retrofitting of school buildings. The guidance notes briefly address the need and rationale for safer school buildings, recommend a series of suggested steps that highlight key points that should be considered when planning a safer school construction and/or retrofitting initiative, and identify basic design principles and requirements a school building must meet to provide a greater level of protection. Finally, the Guidance Notes provide a list of key resources for more detailed, technical and context-specific information.

4. VISUS methodology: a quick assessment for defining safety upgrading strategies of school facilities

Developed by the SPRINT-Lab researchers of the University of Udine and adopted by UNESCO, the VISUS methodology (Visual Inspection for defining the Safety Upgrading Strategies) aims to assess schools in a holistic and multi-hazard approach that considers five issues: site conditions, structural performance, local structural criticalities, non-structural components, and functional aspects. VISUS could be used as an effective decision making tool for planning actions in risk mitigation at a regional scale following a rational approach. VISUS is adaptable to different local contexts and needs. The method provides different sub-products, such as the transfer of scientific knowledge through the capacity building of local engineers and decision makers; a mobile application for collecting related data; the production of school's individual and collective reports; and geo-referenced national inventories of schools in mapping platforms such as OpenStreetMap or GeoNode. The reports provide to the decision makers and the educational community a rational and effective strategy for risk reduction based on the level of risk, criticalities, countermeasures, and costs. The method was elaborated and applied in the ASSESS project aimed at assessing more than 1000 schools in the Friuli Region (N-E of Italy) and recently it has been adopted in a prototypal project of UNESCO in 100 selected schools of three geographical departments of El Salvador (La Paz, La Libertad and San Salvador). UNESCO is planning to start new pilot projects in different countries worldwide in close cooperation with other GADRRRES partners, such as Save the Children and GFDRR.

5. School Safety Index

Adapted firstly by the Government of Guatemala, the School Safety Index is based on the Hospital Safety Index developed by PAHO. UNICEF has since then taken the lead on the development of a regional model tool, which could be versatile and adaptable to each country context and that provides governments with an index expressing the level of security of existing schools in the probable occurrence of an event.

Working Group members: UNESCO (lead), GFDRR (lead)