The 8th World Congress of Education International (EI), meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, from 21st to 26th July 2019:
(1) Observing that in recent years, countries in the North America and the Caribbean region have experienced natural disasters including earthquakes, storms, flooding, hurricanes, wildfires, disease pandemics and epidemics, as well as human-triggered environmental disasters; we note that their frequency and severity are increasing;
(2) Recording that hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence, Idai and Kenneth were among the most destructive in our regions’ history, leading to more than 3,000 deaths, and more than $500 billion dollars in damages; Mexico, Latin America and Africa have suffered from several severe earthquakes in recent years; super-storm Sandy caused more than $300 million dollars of damage in the Caribbean, before devastating the east coast of the U.S.; climate change in Canada is having unpredictable ecological and economic effects on croplands, and there is uncertainty over the effect of warming in the Arctic zone; flooding has caused millions of dollars in damage in Texas, Louisiana, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, while fires have raged out of control in the western states of the US; 2018’s disasters have extended as far as Hawaii, where lava from the Kilauea volcano destroyed hundreds of homes in a fortnight;
(3) Recognising that in the aftermath of these disasters, faculty and staff have been critical in responding to the crises; schools do duty as shelters for the displaced and the elderly, while teachers and education support personnel are on hand to assist in maintaining the shelters, serve meals, and care for the injured; the school also becomes a communications hub, serving as a nexus of aid and information for the community;
(4) Noting that childcare centres, schools and university campuses have been destroyed, damaged, or closed; students, teachers, education support personnel, and administrators have been forced to deal with trauma-related issues both in the workplace and at home; government austerity cuts have handicapped the capacity of our public sector to respond;
(5) Declaring that reopening schools, when safe, should be one of the primary priorities of disaster recovery. Schools provide safe spaces for children; a support system for particularly vulnerable children, such as those separated from their families; and access to lifesaving health and security information. Without protection, displaced children can face perilous circumstances, such as exploitation and trafficking;
(6) Affirming that education plays a critical role in disaster preparedness and recovery. Education can prepare children and their families for natural disasters and mitigate the impacts once devastation has struck;
(7) Alarmed that the post-disaster environment has been used as a cover for the so-called reorganising of school systems, but this is in fact an opportunity for profit-seeking private corporations to remake what should remain a public resource. Privatisers and profiteers have attempted take-overs in school systems after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, in earthquake-torn Honduras, and in Puerto Rico following hurricane Maria.
(8) Congress mandates the Executive Board to:
(i) Develop a web portal that provides access to “disaster relief” toolkits and other resources created by member organisations;
(ii) Intensify EI’s Global Response campaign to monitor and report the actions of governments who the post-disaster restoration of education to the private sector;
(iii) Ensure that EI’s Development Cooperation programme will foster capacity building programmes for member organisations in addressing preparation before natural disasters, and protection and safety during the occurrence and post-disaster recovery; and
(iv) Recognise that many member organisations have generously responded to EI’s appeals for financial contributions to disaster relief funds. However, in this era of global climate change, member organisations are urged to be even more prepared to give support as we face the challenge of an increasing number of natural disasters each year.