The Malta Independent 13 November 2019, Wednesday

Eco-schools programme: seeding the future

Carmel Cacopardo Sunday, 3 November 2019, 10:13 Last update: about 11 days ago

The environmental education of our younger generation is the most rewarding investment and the eco-schools programme run, by local environmental NGO Nature Trust, is one such fruitful investment.

In Malta, the eco-schools programme has been in existence for some 17 years. As a result, this year 76 Maltese schools are flying a Green Flag – a symbol of environmental awareness and commitment. This is an investment in our country’s future that will yield so much in the years to come.

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Introducing this year’s ceremony, during which a number of schools were awarded a Green Flag for their environmental achievements, Nature Trust Executive President Vincent Attard emphasised the fact that: “The Eco-Schools programme is instrumental in providing students with tools to think about environmental issues and come to conclusions and solutions. This can be witnessed by the fact that, today, it is the younger generations that are questioning the actions of the country’s leaders and putting pressure on them. This awareness is growing each year and the sooner leaders take heed of these calls, the faster we will start mitigating not only environmentally but also socially and economically. Quoting the children themselves in the last EkoSkola parliament: We want to be heard not just liked.”

Eco-School is a global programme currently engaging 19.5 million young people across 67 countries. For nearly 25 years, Eco-Schools have been empowering young people to improve their environmental awareness and, in so doing, receive the international Eco-Schools Green Flag award.

The Eco-School programme develops the skills of our younger generation, raises environmental awareness, improves the school environment and creates a whole host of other benefits not just for our educational institutions but, moreover, for our community at large.

The eco-school seven steps educational process targets a change of lifestyle and the guidelines available on implementing these seven steps is very informative.

The first basic step is to set up a participative democracy in our schools through which all stakeholders are actively involved, with the students taking a democratic lead. Assisted by educators, students interact with the different stakeholders and, in so doing, identify the environmental issues that need to be addressed in their own little world and beyond. They are then trained to think, discuss and ultimately arrive at conclusions and results.

Reading through the list of initiatives taken in our schools as a result of the Eco-School Programme is quite impressive. The programme has identified issues relating to water, waste, recycling, energy efficiency and climate change, heritage appreciation and many more. The lessons learnt first-hand by our students are then taken from the school to their homes, their families and society in general.

Environmental education is about much more than a respect for nature. Nature is not something separate, isolated and compartmentalised during excursions: it also features in our way of life.

As a result of the environmental education which the eco-schools programme provides for our students, our younger generation is being equipped with the knowledge and awareness that environmental damage can be reversed. They are learning that they can be active agents of the change we so desperately require in halting – and eventually reversing – the accumulated environmental damage.

These are indeed the seeds of a bright future.

 

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