January 27, 2016 By Max A. Konneh
It is becoming increasingly apparent that a wide-range of global environmental problems such as global warming, depletion of energy resources, water resources and natural resources, and the loss of biodiversity – are rapidly worsening. With the world’s population continuing to grow, the expansion of global economy, and the ever-increasing globlisation of human activities, there are growing threats to the very foundation of human existence on earth, and such issues will have a major impact on the future sustainability of human society.
The concept of sustainable education, they say, begins with the ideas and aspirations of the target group. Through participation in their own learning process, members of that group are enabled to and empowered to make informed decisions about their relationship with their own environment.
In an acknowledgement of the reality, the Environmental Protection Agency Sierra Leone (EPA-SL) continues to initiate and pursue formal and non-formal education programmes for the creation of public awareness of the environment.
IMPORTANCE OF THE STRATEGY:
On Thursday, 10th December, 2015 the Agency organized a one-day interactive meeting at the conference hall of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security with key stakeholders to validate the Environmental Education and Awareness Creation Strategy, which many environmentalists referred to as ‘very important and timely document’.
At the opening ceremony of the forum, which was attended by representatives from ministries, departments and agencies, non-governmental organisations, teacher coordinators, the media and other key stakeholders, the Deputy Director, Field Operations and Extension of EPA-SL, Syl Brian Kamara, described the strategy as ‘an extremely important document that would address the serious threats and additional impacts facing the environment’. He was optimistic that with a holistic approach and concerted effort of all, the environment will be well managed.
Assistant Head of Information, Education and Communication EPA-SL, Abdul Conteh, said the aim of environmental education is to develop a world population that is aware of and concerned about the total environment and its associated problems, and which has knowledge, attitudes, motivations, commitments and skills to work individually and collectively towards solutions of current problems and the prevention of new ones. Mr. Conteh intimated that the purpose of reviewing the strategy is to accommodate new actions, revise existing actions and as well as align them more clearly with reviewed EPA-SL strategic plan.
The Information and Communication Officer assured participants that the strategy would increase environmental awareness and participation in environmental activities, mobilise the public to get involved in the protection and conservation of the environment, encourage media to embrace effective, positive and informative environment coverage in order to enhance awareness and prioritisation of the environment, among others.
He furthered that the strategy also seeks to establish an Environmental Advisory Committee to provide advice and oversee the implementation of the strategy and develop partnerships with key stakeholders, encourage MDAs to articulate a clear statement of their environmental education goals and steps to achieve them, and encouraged industries to play an active role in sustainable environmental development by providing best practices programmes and training etc.
He cited lack of a broader support for environmental education and awareness at all levels, people’s uncompromising attitudes, inadequate funds, duplication of activities, lack of coordination and skills as some of the challenges facing the process. He expressed the need to steer environmental education and awareness in the country in a more coordinated manner at all levels of implementation, ensure environmental education and enforcement complement each other so that the strategy will achieve its desired goals.
Conscious of their roles and responsibilities in ensuring that the historic document thoroughly addresses issues affecting the environment, participants after brainstorming, proffered the under-mentioned as some of their recommendations:
* That committees involved in non-formal education should be established in the 149 chiefdoms in the country and provide them with skills in environmental education.
* It must be mandatory for all key stakeholders, including women’s organisations, to develop policies on the environment.
* The media must be empowered to educate the masses on the environment; EPA should sponsor media activities such as workshops and publications relating to the environment.
* Efforts are made to change the mindset of people regarding the environment.
* EPA-SL work with NGOs, CBOs etc. to ensure that environmental policies are successfully implemented.
* Ensure environmental issues are captured in schools and tertiary institutions’ curriculums.
* Free Information, Communication and Technology facilities are provided in schools and universities for information sharing on the environment.
* Proper roles and functions of stakeholders must be defined.
* Schools Nature Clubs must continue and well-coordinated.
* That key partners such as the Police, Local Government, Ministry of Fisheries are fully involved in environmental programmes.
* Adequate funds and logistics are provided for the National Fire Force.
* The long-awaited bill on the National Fire Force must be passed into law.
I have been following the activities of EPA-SL with keen interest since its inception and I must say kudos to the management and staff of that institution for introducing a number of initiatives, including the Environmental Education and Awareness Creation Strategy and Action Plan that is geared towards the safe and rational use of our environment. As the Executive Chairperson, Madam Hadijatou Jallow, rightly puts it, “the only way to develop a community of environmentally aware, committed and informed citizens who will actively seek ways to minimise their impact on the environment is through Environmental Education Awareness initiatives”, which buttresses the fact that this laudable initiative should be addressed with spirit of cooperation and commitment among stakeholders.
What was very clear at the session was the fact that all participants present were full of praise and appreciation for the document, which they hoped will stand the test of time.
LET EPA-SL PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT!