Evarist Bartolo | Sunday, 07 December 2008

Waving the green flag

Last Thursday morning I really enjoyed myself attending the programme organized by Paola Primary A to celebrate their achievement in being awarded the Green Flag for their commitment to the environment and to children empowerment. I felt so happy to see the head of the school, her colleagues of the senior management team and all the teachers put so much effort in developing the talents of the young kids entrusted to them. The kids were singing, dancing and acting and enjoying themselves in front of their proud parents who came also to celebrate the success of the school in winning the Green Flag after they joined the EkoSkola programme last year.
This is a programme that is doing a lot of good in our schools as it has a holistic approach involving all the school as a community, management, teachers and all the staff, the parents and the local community. This programme is introducing a very lively dynamic into our schools as it is not about more teaching and preaching but about changing mindsets and behaviour where the children become protagonists in running their school on ecological lines that also helps to prepare them, if properly nurtured and encouraged to grow into full active citizens later on.
These are the kind of bottom-up initiatives that really help to change our schools positively as they happen where they matter most: in our classrooms and in our schools. All other reforms that are top-down, where heads and teachers have to obey superior orders, even if couched in democratic consultative language are doomed to fail.
The Paola kids told us through a short entertaining play how all the pupils with ages ranging from three to eight vote for their representatives on the committee that plans and implements green policies for the school with the participation of all the educators, pupils and parents of the school. They also take initiatives in their community and in the rest of the country.
The pupils carried out an environmental audit of the school, identified the shortcomings and made recommendations on how to address them. It was clear from their message that thankfully gone is the day when caring for the environment meant keeping Malta tidy. The kids told us repeatedly: caring for the environment is caring for ourselves, saving the environment means saving ourselves so we have to change our lifestyles and daily habits, cutting down on cars and driving not only to reduce pollution but to walk more. We need to eat healthy food and we need to stop wasting water and electricity not only because they are so expensive but because wasting them damages our planet and ourselves.
These kids are making a difference to their school, to their homes and to their community as they carry their commitment outside their classroom and school. The assistant head of the schools says: “They have cut down electricity and water consumption by introducing new habits in the school. They have worked on waste separation and composting. They have also held several campaigns aimed at informing and involving the community of Paola about the state of the environment and how everyone can and should give a helping hand.”
The Paola Primary A has also taken part in the Malta International Trade Fair, the EchoFest and in a special session at the Maltese Parliament. They also take an active role in the activities organised by Wasteserv and other national activities such as Clean Up the World. This school is also helping to educate the Paola kids to become global citizens through the participation in ‘Conectando Mundos’, ‘Dinja Wahda’ and Global Action Schools.
The mission statement of the kids’ committee is very ambitious as they hope that their drive and enthusiasm in favour of a greener environment, is shared by the rest of the inhabitants of our planet so that we can heal mother earth.


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