“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn”, Confucius.
As part of the Innovation for Education Programme, ARAMA has been piloting eco-schools programme for more than one year in 100 schools from Gatsibo, Gicumbi, Ngoma and Kirehe districts. Each of these schools has started eco-school initiatives with claims and praises on their effectiveness for improving students’ learning, environmental literacy and the school’s physical environment.
Eco School, a response to environmental challenges
In an interview with the head teacher of G.S. Kinishya, he said that their school had initiated greening activities, but considered planting flowers, lawns and trees in the schoolyards as enough. He further explained that keeping their school green was very expensive, as it was perceived to be the responsibility of the school administrators.
As greening activities were not part of their curriculum, teachers and learners were not involved except during extra-curricular hours. They were far to understand their role in mitigating environmental damage. How could such a mindset really change ? “At that time, we did not value the environment at school ; we did cleaning as a punishment”, Evariste Mudaheranwa, a 20-years-old student at G.S. Kinishya explained.
Action learning and involving the community
Today, teachers and learners are using school gardens for hands-on outdoor classroom. Gradually, learners are coming up with creative solutions to climate change. “I can raise nursery beds and use organic manure to grow vegetables”, said a student from G.S. Kazo after an outdoor maths lesson.
“Eco-School not only supports students’ achievement, but also helps the school save money from operations. It provides a teaching environment that is more conducive to learning, engages and inspires students by demonstrating simple and complex ways to bring about innovation and change”, said the Head teacher of G.S PAYSANNAT D.
For this to happen, everyone in schools has been involved in this drive to develop creative ideas to introduce eco-school initiatives in schools.
“Eco-school requires the whole school approach. Training head teachers and teachers and knowledge transfer to the rest of the school. In addition, a paradigm shift should take hold in schools and communities to level everyone’s environmental understanding with attitudes and practices”, said Jules Gahamanyi, ARAMA Executive Director.
Eco-School as a nutrition tool
The benefits of Eco schools go beyond education by not only involving to learners in planting lawns and trees, saving water, energy, litter and waste management, and biodiversity conservation but also extend to health living, school feeding with food grown at school.
Today, 343 teachers and head teachers have been trained on Eco-schools. The project has reached out to 119,019 primary school students and 9941 secondary school students. Initiatives to scale up eco-schools are underway in the four districts to foster sustainable thinking and action to Rwandan students with a vision of “… making the world a better place to live and learn”.