By The Insight Post Uganda
In a bid to promote environmental conservation and sustainability, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) launched a new programme aimed at greening schools across the country.
The programme dubbed ‘Greening Schools For Enhanced Learning and Wellbeing’ funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other partners will see 50 Seed Schools across Uganda benefit from a range of initiatives designed to protect the environment.
According to Sam Kuloba, the Ministry’s Commissioner for Government Secondary Schools, it is part of a wider effort to address the environmental challenges facing Uganda and is aimed at creating awareness among students and teachers about the importance of environmental conservation.
Through this programme, students and teachers will be encouraged to take practical steps to protect the environment, including planting trees, establishing gardens, and adopting other environmentally friendly practices.
The initiative is being implemented in partnership with Umoja Conservation Trust and the Ministry of Water and Environment and is expected to have a significant impact on the environment in Uganda.
By promoting environmental conservation in schools, the programme will be helping to build a more sustainable future for the country and its people. The initiative will also be implemented at the Uganda Petroleum Institute Kigumba.
The programme was introduced by the ministry in October of last year at and launched by the First Lady, Janet Kataaha Museveni at Teryet High Altitude SS in Kapachorwa District.
In recent years, Kuloba noted, the disappearance of greenery has led to erosion problems in many schools, and the surrounding communities. As a result, people have been displaced due to natural calamities and extreme weather conditions which create obstacles for learners to access education.
Kuloba has observed that in recent years, the loss of vegetation has caused erosion issues in numerous schools and neighbouring communities. Consequently, individuals have been displaced due to natural disasters and severe weather conditions, which also hinder students’ access to education.
“Destruction of educational infrastructure resulting from these disasters can harm the psychological well-being of students, teachers, and parents,” he explains. Additionally, Kuloba highlighted, that in the past, forested hills were usually sites of churches or schools but the greenery has vanished from most schools in recent times.
Under the guidance of the board of governors, each school is expected to reserve a portion of land where they will plant trees. The government does not anticipate that schools will change the land use in the near future and therefore requires a commitment to this effect.
According to Kuloba, while the government will initiate the tree planting exercise, it will be the duty of the teachers to ensure the survival and growth of the trees in the schools. It is the responsibility of the head teacher to ensure that any dried tree is replaced promptly.
The UNDP has invested $200,000 in the program, which seeks to create water sources to aid in the establishment of tree nurseries, educate children on woodlot management, encourage participation in planting boundary markers on school grounds, and establish climate-smart gardens.
The program also aims to involve students in environmental best practices such as waste management and energy conservation. Additionally, it aims to facilitate the formation of environmental clubs and utilize them to promote the project’s objectives, renovate school kitchens, install fuel-efficient cooking stoves, and provide suitable accessories.
Deborah Basekanakyo, the headteacher of Wanyange Girls SS, reports that the school has planted trees on 40 acres out of 103 acres of land they have. Planting trees, she adds, has not only protected the school from hazardous conditions but has also eliminated the burden of purchasing firewood.
“Previously, the school would spend Ugx20 million annually on fire. But now we have an adequate supply of firewood and some to sell to the neighbouring schools,” she recounts.
Basekanakyo highlights that the students at Wanyange Girls have also embraced the habit of tree planting, thanks to the school’s influence. The school engages the students through various clubs such as Wildlife, Environment, and Climate Change clubs, inspiring them to follow in the school’s footsteps.
Toshi Bwana, from Umoja Conservation Trust, emphasizes that climate observation is both profitable and environmentally beneficial as it aids in reducing carbon emissions.
According to Daniel Omodo, a Program Analyst at UNDP, additional efforts are necessary to promote the greening of Uganda. UNDP studies indicate that Uganda was 50 percent forested in 1950; however, the coverage had decreased to 24 percent by 1990 and further declined to 9 percent in 2019, necessitating the government to intensify conservation practices.
According to a study conducted last year, the green cover has been restored to 12.5 percent. However, Omodo stresses that much more needs to be done to increase the country’s green cover.
He adds that protecting the trees from pests and vandalism is the most challenging aspect of tree planting, but once the community is committed to the initiative, the green cover can be restored.
Sarah Mujabi, the Programs Officer at UNDP, believes that if the project is properly implemented, it will create a healthier learning environment, promote environmental stewardship and sustainable use of natural resources among children, encourage advocacy, and foster the use of energy-efficient technologies.
The School Greening Initiative Green campaign follows a similar initiative by performers aimed at spreading awareness and educating the public and schools about the importance of protecting the environment through Music Dance and Drama (MDD).
In response to the devastating effects of heavy rainfall on four districts of Greater Mukono, including Mukono, Buikwe, Buvuma, and Kayunga, the performers have adopted an innovative approach to simplify messages about environmental conservation.
The campaign named ‘Environmental Protection Through Revitalized Drama’ aims to restore and protect the environment, particularly in areas with depleted ecosystems and forest reserves. The performers believe that dramatized messages are an effective way to motivate people to take action.