Inclusive practice in Montserrat, Caribbean: natural disaster experiences
This chapter addresses inclusive education in the context of a chronic or ongoing natural disaster. Natural disasters have been common in the history of Montserrat, a tiny ten-mile-long by sevenmile-wide British Overseas Territory in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. The most significant modern-day disasters have been hurricanes: Hugo (1989) destroyed 99 per cent of buildings and claimed many lives. A volcanic eruption in Soufriere Hills has been ongoing since 1995. Such disasters cause disruptions in island life and displacement, which are perhaps the reasons for its consistently small population: currently less than 5,000 due to voluntary evacuation on account of the volcanic eruption. Previously the population was approximately 12,000 and had been in that region since the abolition of plantation slavery in the mid-eighteenth century. From June to October yearly, the island is under threat from hurricanes and tropical storms, warranting major protective preparation. As I wrote this chapter in August and September 2015, there were three which caused anxiety and disruption of services in Montserrat, whilst another tropical storm (Erika) did damage to neighbouring Dominica, where one school was washed away and others became shelters for those made homeless. Disasters, whatever the causes, are disruptive of the education cycle, traumatising and a major cause of exclusion. UNICEF (2011) estimated that 68 million children are affected worldwide as a result of mass emergencies. The World Education Forum (2000: 24) Framework for Action required countries to work towards the objective of education for all, including a commitment to ‘meet the needs of education systems affected by conflict, natural calamities and instability’. Continuing disasters are prevalent in the developing world; Montserrat has endured volcanic eruptions for twenty years. The original population (12,000) was dispersed mainly to the UK when three quarters of the island’s land space was made uninhabitable by dramatic eruptions that were sometimes potentially cataclysmic.