THE HISTORICAL ROAD MAP OF “ECO-SCHOOLS” IN RWANDA
Eco-School Rwanda is a new programme initiated since January 2013 by the Consortium of two Rwandan Organizations Association for Research and Assistance Mission for Africa- ARAMA (www.aramarwanda.rw) and Foundation Saint Dominique Savio-FSDS (www.fsds.org.rw), supported by DFID in the context of Innovation for Education, a partnership between Government Rwanda and United Kingdom through Ministry of Education.
FROM A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE TO A LOCAL INITIATIVE
In reference to the UN agenda 21, we must “think globally and act locally”. And in memory of late Nelson Mandela, we remember and always refer to his quote stating that “Education is the powerful weapon we can use to change the world”.
The United Nations (UN) launched the decade for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) 2005-2014. The objective of this initiative was to enhance the profile of education and learning in the common pursuit of sustainable development. The four main domains of ESD are related to the promotion and improvement of basic education ; reorienting existing education at all levels to address sustainable development ; developing public understanding and awareness of sustainability and training.
In response to some of the needs identified at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992), the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) developed the Eco-Schools Programme to enhance pupil participation in decision making, planning and environmental activities and today “Eco-schools” or “Green schools” has become an international programme to implement ESD objectives and to contribute to the environment and climate change resilience.
Eco-schools in Rwanda started at the same time with the launch of the “Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS II) to continue the road into the home strait of our Vision 2020. The Vision’s long term objectives in this regard include the integration of environment in all development policies, programmes and planning of development activities at all levels ; conserving, preserving and restoring ecosystems as well as protecting biodiversity ; ensuring optimal and sustainable level of natural resources use and promoting participatory approach to environmental management.
Environmental education through Eco-schools is seen as continuous lifelong learning that emphasizes the complexity of environmental issues and calls for the use of different and innovative educational approaches for teaching and learning.
The Eco-schools approaches used should be in responsive to environmental issues at all levels, to dynamic contexts and needs ; it should recognize different systems of knowledge, promote knowledge and skills required and be socially transformative. These should apply to all educational sectors namely formal, non‐formal and informal in order to empower all citizens to participate in environmental management.
ECO-SCHOOLS, A STRONG SOLUTION TO THE SCHOOLS’ ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION NEEDS
The decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD 2004-2014) is now reaching its end but the current situation shows that ESD needs to be extended to achieve effectively and efficiently its goals. In our country, most of primary and secondary schools face critical environmental challenges inter alia health living problems caused by the lack of school and personal hygiene (asthma, helminthes), litter and waste, natural disasters due to climate change (Lightening, storms due to heavy rains), lack of water, school gardens, energy and travel, big number of pupils/students, land degradation due the population pressure and poor infrastructures, low number of environmental professionals, lack of skills and related environmental modules for schools areas as well as scarce financial resources.
In particular, in Eastern Province, mainly Umutara region faces usually the long dry period season which dries up the vegetables, trees, grass, animals, etc. and sometimes water completely dries out in the whole region. Also, the effective and equitable utilization of available resources such as soil/land, water, hygiene and sanitation, energy as well as litter are still crucial challenges into our schools.
THE SOURCE AND CONTENT OF “ECO-SCHOOLS” IDEA IN RWANDA
To tackle all of these problems, and in the Context of Innovation for education, (a programme to improve the quality of education in Rwanda) funded by DFID (UK- Department for International Development) through MINEDUC (Ministry of Education) ARAMA (Association for Research and Assistance Mission for Africa) in consortium with FSDS (Foundation Saint Dominique Savio), through about the “Eco-schools” project to promote environmental education.
To taste “Eco-Schools or Green Schools” programme in Rwanda, one hundred 100 pilot schools have been chosen in 4 Districts of Northern and Eastern to help the implementing organizations to contribute to poverty alleviation by deepening environmental protection and climate change mitigation in education sector.
The project today supports 100 selected schools to upgrade direct beneficiaries’ environmental knowledge, attitudes and practices, to tackle the key schools challenges in the sector of water, energy, school grounds and gardens, health living issue, hygiene and sanitation, litter and waste as well as land equitable and effective utilization of available resources by using “Green schools” approach.
From the fact of the field, the Eco-Schools programme provides effective and efficiency mechanisms of Environmental Education for schools, the pupils themselves, to understand the importance of establishing and putting in practice appropriate environmental sustainability policies at school but also at personal level. The Eco-School concept focuses on enhancing pupils’ action and reflective competences, inter-generation transfer of knowledge, skills and values through school community co-operation.
7 STEPS AT THE HEART OF ECO-SCHOOLS
To implement “Eco-schools” activities, 7 steps methodology, which function as a framework or a holistic approach that guides schools in their path towards becoming a Green –schools are strictly followed. The seven steps/ key activities to achieve the Eco-schools project objectives are as follows :
- (1) Training of schools environmental monitors (H/T, teachers as ToTs, SEOs, Sectors agronomists and REMA focal points at district level) on ESD and Green Schools Approach
- (2) Establishing Schools Environmental Management Committees–“Eco-Committee”
- (3) Carrying out an environmental review in school
- (4) Establishing an action plan and implement its physical activities in the school and around schools where possible
- (5) Link the practical initiatives based on certain environmental themes to the school curriculum
- (6) Inform and involve the wider community around schools (by using innovative technologies like Eco-schools competitions, Eco- schools Dialogue and Laboratory Ideas, IECs tools and social media activities and
- (7) Develop Environmental Clubs and Green-code for schools.
This methodology has guided the implementing organizations staff and the selected schools to implementing “Eco-schools” as whole-school, participatory and democratic approach towards environmental and climate change mainstreaming and sustainability education.
KEY TEN ENVIRONMENTAL THEMES FOR “ECO-SCHOOLS” AWARENESS MAINSTREAMING
Eco-schools programme propose a number of themes, in which students/pupils can be involved. Although these themes can be adopted to the realities of every country and school. The 10 international recognized eco-schools themes are : Water, Waste/litter, Energy, Nature and Biodiversity, School Grounds, Transport/ Sustainable Mobility, Health Living, Noise, Local Agenda 21 and Climate Change.
From this themes, Eco-schools Rwanda in this first pilot project target to tackle at least in 100 selected schools 4 themes among 10 for the academic year 2013-2014 to make Eco-schools an ideal way for schools to embark on meaningful path for improving the environment in both the school and local community, and to influence the lives of young people, school staff, families, local authorities, environmental activities, NGOs, FBOs, CSBOs and so on.
ECO-SCHOOLS PROJECT KEY STAKEHOLDERS
To implement Eco-schools projects, the main project stakeholders are mainly : (1) Local authorities ( sector, district, province) especially at the level Mayor, Vice- Mayor in Charge of Social Affairs, (2) District Education and Environmental Officers, (3) Private or Public schools (Head Teachers, teachers, pupils/students, Parents and Teachers Associations members) and families of the community around schools (4) Sector Education and Environmental Officers (SEOs), Sector Agronomists), focal points of REMA at National and District Levels, Local Environmental NGOs at least one per district, MINEDUC, MINAGRI, REMA, REB, MINISANTE, RAB, MINIRENA and MININFRA.
Most of these stakeholders have in their attributions, most of the Eco-schools themes to deal with in their daily activities.
COORDINATION, MONITORING AND EVALUATION, KEY ACTIVITIES FOR ECO-SCHOOLS PROJECT SUCCESSFUL
The coordination, monitoring and evaluation focus on the project planned activities to be monitored, sources of evidence and data collection mechanism and instruments to be used.
The main tools for monitoring needs to be developed and used mainly in reporting, interviews, field visits, testimonies from beneficiaries or audience survey and coalition partners, using opened questionnaires and inspection of records and web site of the both partners. Regular reports should be prepared to identify the major findings of the monitoring and evaluation missions and how they can be used to improve project operation. At the end of each project year a summary and audit evaluation should be conducted by a selected project evaluator.
ECO-SCHOOLS CHALLENGES IN PILOTED SCHOOLS
- - Considering the number of activities carried out by schools, the main tackled theme in selected schools was at the beginning of the project the “Greening and beautification”. This was explained by the fact that the Government has put an emphasis on this theme. This fact has conducted to the resistance of some schools to change their way of doing schools things when the project started the activities of setting up “Schools gardens” in the light of Eco-schools.
- - The project has also noted from its baseline survey that the average score for the pupils/students knowledge about environment was still low (46%) while the pupils/students attitude tends to be on good level with an average score of 61%.
- - So far as students environmental friendly practices were looked at the relative higher (67%) than the score on the Knowledge and attitudes. The conducted baseline on environmental KAP was targeting the sample pupils of primary schools (p3, p4, p5) and students of secondary schools (S2, S4 and S5).
BEST LESSONS LEARNT, ANECDOTES, QUOTES AND PICTURES
- - This project has helped the implementing partners’ organizations to discover that Eco-schools should be a solution to the poor implementation mechanisms of Environmental Education (EE) in our schools and solve effectively and efficiently the issue that environmental content in the curriculum is based rather than linked to an interdisciplinary education for sustainable development context
- - Eco-schools or Green Schools programme even if is new in Rwanda, it could be an effective solution not only to promote ESD but also to solve the challenge of a fragmented approach to developing public awareness about sustainable development as well as to become a solution to the lack of environmental teaching materials and guidelines not only for the schools but also for the various public sector organizations to efficiently address environmental issues with stakeholders.
- - Eco-schools can contribute the poverty alleviation, food security, nutrition and health living issues without loosing its quality of protecting environment and contributing to the climate change resilience.
- - Eco-schools is a holistic, participatory and democratic strategy to promote effective, equitable partnership and a way of improving people’ livelihoods and quality of productivity through a good utilization of the available limit or not resources.
- - Eco-schools is a life and a way of being and its method can be applied to several areas of activities for individual, a making or non making profit organizations.
- - Eco-schools is based in action-learning and could transform schools into community based learning-resources.
B. ANECDOTES FROM THE FIELD
Eustache NTAWIHEBA, Director of Gasange Secondary School during the monitoring and evaluation the project staff field visit, stated this anecdote to describe the progress achievements of Eco-schools in his school. He started by saying that his school has planted flowers, grasses, vegetables, fruits and trees around classrooms. The vegetables feed our students and teachers while our trees and flowers give us a calm environment, its flesh air is incomparable and the morning bids music from these trees enjoys us and helps us to wake up early.
Felicien NYILINKINGI, Head Teacher at GS Mamfu said : The protection of the our environment is the protection of our live, kept it green”.
BENEGUSENGA DENYSE, a student at GASANGE Secondary schools asked about what he has learnt about Eco-schools, she answered that “organism is all living in particular space and how can found their habitat in the place. Eco-schools is for the school what the food is for our organism”.