Sat | Mar 28, 2020

Environmental education for all schools

Published:Wednesday | October 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir: It is with disgust that I have been observing Jamaicans, of all ages and statuses, littering the streets and filling gullies with their waste, despite all the dangers associated with such practices.

Though there is a law against such practices, we rarely hear of anyone being caught, let alone prosecuted. If we allow such practices to continue, we will forever be complaining, not just about mosquitoes and their associated diseases, but all the other effects that poor waste management leads to.

With this in mind, I am proposing that the health, environment, youth, and education ministries, along with other stakeholders, come together and put in place a system and structure that will introduce environmental education into all schools, at all levels.

When I was in primary school, I can remember how, mostly after lunch, we would sing, "Bits of paper, bits of paper, lying on the ground, lying on the ground, it makes the place untidy, it makes the place untidy, pick them up, pick them up." As we sang, we would go around the room and pick up the pieces of paper.

When I was in school, if there was no bin to put my garbage in, I would place it into my bag until I get home. To this day, I do not litter, simply because I was trained from early.

So, starting from early childhood, a simple curriculum could be implemented that will help children to understand basic waste-disposal practices and hygiene. Before long, these little ones will be making sure their backyards are rid of mosquito-breeding and rodent-harbouring sites. With good hygiene practices, they will also become ill less frequently.

At the primary level, children would add to what they would have already learned. Areas to focus on at this level could include: resource management, energy conservation and the three Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle.

At the secondary level, students could become involved in environmental-impact projects. Here, they would observe something like waste disposal and its impacts and propose alternative methods for low or no environmental impact, fresh water management, and propose methods that can be implemented to ensure the precious commodity is available all year round, or mining and soil conservation.

Phase-by-phase basis

Bearing in mind that the environment is more than just trees, water and soil, etc., students would also look at their relationships with others and the general care and dignity for life.

The curricula at the various levels could be introduced on a phased basis, thus minimising the period between conceptualisation and implementation, as well as giving time for assessment. A select group of teachers would then be trained, by region or subregion, through the Ministry of Education. I suggest this be made an accredited programme that would later be offered through our teachers' colleges.

I know that some people will ask, "Why add something more to an already-crammed curriculum, especially at the GSAT level?" I have analysed the GSAT curriculum and do agree that it is quite cumbersome. I am not proposing that the volume increase. However, since this is a most important area that is vital to our future survival, I propose that a number of the other items in the curriculum be dropped so that this vital area becomes engrained in our culture.

If we are going stem this mayhem of improper waste disposal, poor resource management and general disregard for life and country, we must see environmental education in school as the right step forward. If we start with the youngest, maybe in the long term, we can change things around.