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Earth Day celebrations dampened by closure

Published:Thursday | April 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Laura Redpath, Senior Reporter

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's International Mother Earth Day message pointed out that people were now seeing the consequences of not safeguarding our investment, made up of Earth's resources.

Part of protecting the environment includes educating overall communities and incorporating environmental sustainability into schools' curricula.

However, Jamaica's largest environmental programme geared towards education, facilitated by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), folded because of the lack of funding.

"It was widely thought to be successful and it was closed this year," said Diana McCaulay, JET's founder and CEO.

According to McCaulay, the Ministry of Education, the largest financial supporter of JET's Schools' Environment Programme (SEP), used to provide funding ranging from $3-$9 million.

"Over the years, the Ministry of Education had become a large funder and with very little notice they let us know they would not be able to fund it at all.

"We received about $2 million from private sector sources so we used to take the money from the ministry and make (the programme) bigger," McCaulay said.

While Minister of Education Andrew Holness was unable to talk about the SEP in particular, he said the ministry supported environmental education and teaching sustainability to students.

"We see (environmental sustainability) as a critical part of the development of the whole person," Holness said.

Would boast students

Ava Tomlinson, NEPA's senior public education and community outreach officer, said every primary school in Jamaica that followed the Ministry of Education syllabus would boast students well on their way to being environmentally conscious.

"Every child that passes through the education institution would have learned about (the environment)," she said.

The SEP, started in 1997, has been in over 350 schools. In 2002, school participation went to 345. However, this number declined to 180 in 2008 because of a decrease in funding.

Managing garbage, the upkeep of green school grounds and environmental research were a few of the activities the SEP facilitated, according to JET's website.

Other environmental programmes that tap into education are left to carry the sustainability torch.

These include a national public education programme dedicated to climate change, implemented by Panos Caribbean and Jamaica's National Environment Education Committee; and the Communication Education Participation and Awareness group which collaborates with other groups and coordinates World Wetlands Day.

Meanwhile, there are other resources that interested students may access, such as an infomercial, Jamaica's environment off balance, produced by Earthbound and an online students' resource centre found on National Environment Planning Agency's website.

Today's Earth Day Expo will start at 10 a.m. and run until 4 p.m. at Hope Gardens in St Andrew.

- laura.redpath@gleanerjm.com