As a new school term beckons, Education International and its affiliates are helping educators continue to deal with the aftermath of the storm that ravaged their small island nation one year ago.
When the island of Dominica was hit by Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015, its Prime Minister described it as an event that sent the country back 20 years in its development, with severe damage to schools and public infrastructure. Twenty people were killed, and hundreds were left without shelter. Education International (EI) provided immediate assistance through a Development Cooperation project coordinated between its headquarters in Brussels, the Canadian Federation of Teachers (CTF) and EI’s national, the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT).
The schools in the Petite Savanne area, in the southern education district of Dominica, were the hardest hit by Erika. Three quarters of the them were adversely affected, including an entire village that was wiped out.
”Many schools were still standing but were not humanly accessible”, recalls Celia Nicolas, general secretary of DAT, in an interview with EI. “We received tremendous financial support from Education International through its members. Our colleagues in the Caribbean also assisted us. It was not only finance but also the kindness and the emotions that we received, the solidarity of which we were aware of, that helped us recover.”
The project was aimed at the material and emotional relief of teachers on the ground and the reconstruction of infrastructure.
“We assisted a school where the whole wall had collapsed and destroyed two classrooms. It was impossible for them to start school and there was no water supply. Another one was located close to a river and was just wiped away. They had to move to another location and they had to build a first floor to accommodate the children. In Petite Savanne there were 20 teachers plus their families,” explained Nicolas.
An important component of the project is the psychological support offered to teachers who have been victims of the storm. “ Teachers say the healing sessions came at the right time. Some were at a breaking point. Some were harboring things that were affecting their performance at the classroom, and the tropical storm just brought it to the fore. They say that they are better now, not only as teachers but as human beings. This means a lot to the DAT”.