COMMUNITY AS ENVIRONMENT

Teaching environmental awareness at primary school level

Education is a fundamental right of all Gambians and a pre-requisite to the achievement of personal, social and economic development. It is accepted that the foundations for a fulfilled life based on a minimum level of education and knowledge are built between the ages of 4 and 8. At this stage children are most receptive and have a great capacity for learning. It is they who suffer the most when economic family needs have to take priority over a child’s right and a parent’s wish to provide for education. In an education system challenged by a high birth rate and a newly empowered generation eager to learn, it’s hard to find resources demanding a high teacher/student ratio and special teaching aids to satisfy the learning capacity at this important stage of development.

One area hardly taught about is our interaction with the environment. We are all aware that we develop and prosper more freely if we live in harmony with our surroundings – the environment treats us in the same way as we behave towards it. The lessons we learn at an early age will stay with us for life and it is therefore important to instil respect and understanding for our surroundings into the very young – in an appropriate and understandable way. Whenever possible, teaching and learning should be combined with fun. Lessons learned in good humour are lessons remembered in a positive way for life.

Greenie is written by artist creator Caroczel in collaboration with George Riegg, a project developer living and working in The Gambia for a community recycling project. The idea was conceived during her visit to The Gambia in 2007. Greenie will be promoted as the “champion of the environment”, introducing a very far reaching and complex issue – “Environmental awareness and protection” – using all available means of media in a fun and educational way, adding a personal and human element to which all sectors of the community can relate to.

The purpose of our project is to train and empower Early Childhood Development (ECD) specialists and to enable their young students to spread knowledge within their local communities. This method of “bottom-up” teaching is an important component of modern awareness building and marketing techniques. Young children play an important part in every family and community environment – they represent the future for all of us. As such they carry a loud voice within the community and are often instrumental in setting general behavioural trends. 7,000 copies of this book, themed “Community as Part of the Environment,” target younger children at nursery and primary school level (4 – 8 years). Creating environmental awareness, we join Greenie in a series of 6 stories demonstrating proper responsible behaviour in everyday situations. The publication will be supported by a multi-media campaign about the initiative and climate change issues and a book launch is planned at a regional Tourism Fair held in Banjul in November 2010.

The book will be used by 60 member schools of the Association of Early Childhood Educators (AECE) as an educational tool in a lesson context using the session plan which will be developed as part of the project by the Futures Training Foundation (FTF), our project lead agency. After the series of lessons the 7,000 students are expected to take the books home to disseminate their new knowledge within their communities reaching in the region of 45,000 family members and a multiple of this in the immediate community vicinity. The project targets The Gambia’s major urban area – Greater Serrekunda – with a high proportion of rural migratory community members with low adult literacy. At the end of the project a detailed assessment will be carried out to measure the impact this initiative has achieved at community level.

The posters printed as part of the project will be used in the schools as a visual reminder to the teachers, students and visitors that the school has participated in this pilot initiative. Additional posters will be used by partner organisations to further publicise to a wider audience and to promote this pilot project to the local and international donor community enabling a national roll-out to give EVERY child an equal opportunity. Further publications addressing various related issues are already in the pipeline with the intention of creating a series of books that are relevant, educational and fun.

FEEDBACK FROM TEACHERS AND STUDENTS ON THE GREENIE BOOK AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMES:

Mrs. A. J. C. from Banjul – “Greenie our friend should be welcomed in every school and classroom and made a day to day lesson. It will be interesting if modules are drawn from it at national level.”

Mr. O. C. from Abuko – “The Greenie Environmental Education project has a very vital role in the maintenance of health because it helps physically, socially as well as economically; you will be physically healthy, your social outlook would be nice to yourself and your environment and finally, your resources especially money would be saved and secured. Thank you.”

Mr. C. M. from Fajikunda – “My comment pertaining to this issue is that children should be sensitised often in class in order to grow up with this knowledge. This will enable them to disseminate it to the next generation.”

Mr. M. S. from Tallinding – “This teaching should not stop here. This should be available from generation to generation in order to create a more conducive environment free from dump sites within our communities.”

Mrs. M. G. from Serrekunda – “The book Greenie has created a wide gospel to the people and communities. Because it explains in details and shows the solutions to each problem.”

Mr. P. M. from Manjai – “It would be good to have radio programmes and workshops to sensitise the students and the general public. The book really helps the students and the community at large because we have seen positive impacts in the school and the environment.”

Mr. L. C. from Tallinding – “I recommend the introduction of such publications into the ECD curriculum which I strongly believe shall enhance the children’s cleanliness in particular and that of the community in general.”

Mrs. Y. B. from Dippa Kunda – “We suggest that the programme should be extended to the regions and it should be put on the television and radio and in a form of drama or any other creative form. We want to thank the Greenie personally as a school and we also encourage them to do more because it has helped us both in our environment and personally as individuals. Thank you once more.”

Mrs. E. M. from Banjul – “The programme should be on the radio and TV in both English and local languages so that the general public would be aware of their environment and how to protect it.”

Mr. A. K. from Nema Kunku – “On behalf of our school, children, staff, parents and the community I wish to thank those who funded the programme – GEF-UNDP SGP, APE and FTF for making it possible for our environment to be safe and also making it possible for our children to know what is meant by taking care of ourselves and our world. We are requesting that the Greenie comes at least after every two years.” 

And finally from a nursery student in Bakau:

From a student at Fojanga Nursery School – the story: One day Greenie decided to go for a long walk. When Greenie got there she saw a big pile of rubbish. “I think I should clean this up” Greenie said. So she did. The End.

You can see the book and stories on Caroczel’s website:  http://welovestick.wetpaint.com/page/The+Greenie+Book%2C+The+Gambia%2C+Africa

We ask you kindly to respect the artists’ copyright to the publication but should you be interested in the concept, use of Greenie or some of the material for your own project or initiative or even look for a worthy project to support (YES PLEASE) then please contact George on icecool@qanet.gm or +220 770 7090.

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