Mon | Jul 15, 2019

Vaz overrules NRCA to keep school enviro project alive

Published:Friday | June 14, 2019 | 12:23 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Suzanne Stanley, CEO of JET, examines the plaques of champion school, Holland Primary, students (from second left) Shaquira Milton Jahnnani Brown, Shevaughn Ebanks and Jaden Newland at the 2019 Schools’ Environment Programme Research Day and Awards Ceremony at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday. Rudolph Brown/Photographer
Suzanne Stanley, CEO of JET, examines the plaques of champion school, Holland Primary, students (from second left) Shaquira Milton Jahnnani Brown, Shevaughn Ebanks and Jaden Newland at the 2019 Schools’ Environment Programme Research Day and Awards Ceremony at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday. Rudolph Brown/Photographer

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) got a last-minute reprieve on Tuesday from Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Daryl Vaz, that will ensure that its Schools Environment Programme (SEP) continues.

The announcement came during JET’s 2018-2019 SEP Programme Research Competition and Awards Ceremony at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.

Suzanne Stanley, CEO of JET, was in the process of telling teachers and students that this would be the last year for the project, which had run from 1997, when Vaz, who has responsibility for land, ­environment and climate change, and investment, interrupted.

“Unfortunately, this year again, the NRCA (Natural Resources Conservation Authority) has communicated that it’s not really in a position to fund the School Environment Programme going forward, so we are very grateful … ,” said Stanley.

In the keynote address, the minister, who had spent time interacting with students from all 15 schools, made it clear that he had found that experience moving.

“In this group, I see budding researchers, ecologists, scientists, academics, geologists, and climate-change specialists, and we certainly are going to need this group in the future as the world grapples with the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.

“You are indeed the future of our country and our planet and you will have an awesome responsibility as you inherit the world that we leave behind. Protecting the environment today will help everyone have a better tomorrow …,” he said.

“And to know that what it requires to keep this activity going is J$13 million is absolutely almost embarrassing to me, not only on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of my ­colleagues in the private sector.”

Vaz prefaced his comments with the likelihood that he would probably be accused of ministerial interference.

“The NRCA will continue to support this programme, and that is a policy directive from me as long as I have the responsibility,” he declared, to rousing applause.

The minister then directed his next ­comments to the private sector.

“I call on my colleagues, those that are giving, to give more, and those of them who are not giving, to look in the mirror, and I am sure that if you do, you will come to the table because the truth is, we are doing this for future generations.

“What I have seen just by walking around is that this programme is instilling in the youngsters what you need to do to have proper environmental management of waste. It is these kids we saw today who are going to be responsible for the future generations, and if that continues, it will be a way of life as to how you treat the environment on a day-to-day basis.”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com