Published on Sustainable Cities

The Roadmap for Safer Schools—a conversation on making school infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters

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Global Program for Safer Schools

Imagine that you are an advisor to your country's Minister of Education. A recent earthquake damaged hundreds of schools in several cities. The minister has called for a meeting with you and asked: What are the main factors that contribute to the vulnerability of our school infrastructure?  What can be done to prevent similar damages in the future?

So… What would you advise?

In search of answers, we spoke with the leaders of the World Bank’s Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS), who have recently launched an innovative tool, the Roadmap for Safer Schools. This roadmap is a guide to design and implement systematic actions to improve the safety and resilience of school infrastructure at risk from natural hazards.

What makes schools unsafe?

GPSS: As you can imagine, there are many stakeholders involved in the planning, design, construction, and management of school infrastructure, and there are many factors that contribute to unsafe schools in developing countries. This is precisely the challenge governments face when it comes to effectively engaging on safer school policies. For instance, one of the main contributing factors is low institutional capacity to use evidence-based arguments to inform policies, enforce regulations, mobilize qualified personnel, and prioritize needs to leverage investments. 

Can you tell us how the Roadmap can help governments?

GPSS: The Roadmap for Safer Schools guides the dialogue between development professionals and governments, including other relevant in-country stakeholders, to design and implement risk-informed investments for the safety of new and existing school infrastructure. It promotes a long-term, systematic approach to improving the safety of school facilities globally using evidence-based information, such as quantitative risk assessments, to help define needs and priorities.

The Roadmap can be used by school infrastructure managers from a variety of backgrounds such as education, economics, and engineering. It follows concepts and uses language that is accessible for those without prior experience in disaster risk management and construction, and provides guidance on the technical expertise that is required to complement the teams. 

It consists of six steps, which follow a logical sequence of diagnosis, analysis, opportunity, and investment (see figure below). Each step will result in a key deliverable(s), which will enable involved stakeholders to build an evidence-based argument.  

Roadmap for Safer School

Where has it been used so far, and what lessons learned would you highlight?

GPSS: The Roadmap has been used to inform World Bank programs around the world including Peru, Jamaica, El Salvador, Kyrgyz Republic, Nicaragua, and Dominican Republic. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has been instrumental in this effort by mobilizing donor support and funding. These experiences have allowed us to identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.
On one hand, the Roadmap provides:

  • a framework for the different stakeholders involved to interact in an articulated manner
  • a clear methodology to build the case (evidence-based rationale) for a safer school program.

On the other hand, two main needs have been identified so far to complement the Roadmap:

  • offer e-learning courses to introduce infrastructure managers to the topic
  • provide a toolkit to accompany the Roadmap (country case studies, Terms of Reference, etc.), which will help facilitate the implementation of a safer school program.

What’s next?

GPSS: The Roadmap for Safer Schools is part of the larger strategy of the Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS). The GPSS aims to boost and facilitate policy reforms and interventions at scale to reduce vulnerability of school facilities from natural hazards and contribute to improved learning environments. As part of this broader effort we are working on another roadmap for post-disaster contexts—the Recovery and Reconstruction Roadmap (RRR) for Safer Schools. It is under preparation and will be launched in 2018.

Do you have another idea on how you would advise your Minister of Education? We hope this will inspire you and guide global action to make schools more disaster resilient! We also invite you to follow our GPSS blog series and leave your comments.



Fernando Ramírez

Especialista Senior en Gestión de Riesgos de Desastres en el Banco Mundial

Vica Rosario Bogaerts

Disaster Risk Management Specialist

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