Internalizing, the most invaluable aid humans can do to conserve the environment is to not involve themselves in eco-unfriendly activities. This simple notion seems easy but to draw it into ground reality requires collective efforts at society and self-actualization at individual level. For which multiple factors play role as impediments of which one is dearth of awareness resulting in the environmental pollution. The efficient way to address this loop could be educating young minds particularly at their time of primary and secondary school. Eco-club are the group of school children who form a functional entity in their schools to work collectively to improve environmental conditions via awareness campaigns on the environment, forest and wildlife. Mobilization of eco-club is a continuous process to disseminate information for awareness, engagement through environmentally friendly practices in schools and surroundings and ultimately change their behavior. Figure 1 Siddeshwor Secondary School, Eco- Garden
The idea of organizing an eco-club campaign is to encourage enthusiastic and young minds are imprinted with environmental values. The Government of Nepal, Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology debuted the nation's first Green School Guidelines in the year 2018 to make schools environmentally friendly places. The guideline has provided greater scope for schools to conduct plantation programs, establish eco-library, eco-garden and encourage other eco-friendly activities in their schools and surrounding by involving the students and teachers. It emphasizes "One Garden, One School" idea one among eight principles that schools should adhere to become more environmentally friendly.
The integrated landscape management to secure Nepal’s protected areas and critical corridors (ILaM) executed by Ministry of Forest and Environment and funded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Global Environment Facility (GEF) with the goal to conserve globally significant forests and wildlife in Nepal has been working in Banke-Bardiya Complex. Project so far has been collaborating with 15 schools in Eco-club mobilization to foster environmentally friendly practices targeting school kids and teachers in Banke, Bardia, Surkhet and Kailali districts. Following the green school guidelines, ILaM project has its activities focused to inform and engage school kids on several ways to environment protection and promotion of greener practices. Given the extent of harm human activity causes to the environment, it is thought that environmental education, sound rules and regulations, and informed eco-club members can contribute to execution of sustainable practices and guarantee that children act responsibly for betterment of planets’ health. Hoping to impart environment consciousness regarding the consequences of day-to-day activities-for instance plastic pollution-share them knowledge on how the functioning of eco-system requires clean and green environment practically through solid waste management, plantation and care taking, and eco-gardening.
Figure 2 Plantation
Believing in acquiring information and understanding the sustainable solution are two essential steps ILaM project continuously working to foster behavior change process among school kids. More than 9000 students in 15 schools were reached through eco-club awareness program by ILaM project in year 2078 and 2079. Achievements of intervention include waste management infrastructure development in 4 schools, bicycle-stand construction in 2 schools, eco-garden management in 2 schools and eco-library establishment and operationalization in 5 schools. To galvanize students for the promotion of environmentally friendly mobility that is via cycle and protect plantation within the school premises which often used to get damaged by parking cycle in an unmanaged way have been mitigated through cycle stand construction.
Not denying the fact that learning is a more eternal process and gets improved with growing years. And teachers are the people who bridge the process for flourishing learning cultures and inculcating good habits among students. While behavioral change is a process that requires positive reinforcement and frequent stimulation, eco-teachers in few schools in Banke, Bardia, Surkhet Dang and Kailali had been taking extra efforts to establish the culture of promoting nature friendly practices in their schools through collective engagement of their kids. This close connection between teachers and students is an opportunity to help kids coopt good practices. The ILaM project is putting efforts into mainstream practical knowhow with academic routine and to some extents have achieved it with the changes in the culture of the students.
One of the teachers from Kushmeshwor Secondary School, Banke said, “After the implementation of eco-club mobilization program, students have become careful in waste management -avoided throwing the waste inside the school premises- and do engage in the cleanliness program regularly.
Figure 3 Jay Kishan Secondary School, Wall painting
Moreover, teachers actively engage in conveying messages in assemblies following school prayers on waste segregation and waste management”.
As the world is celebrating World Environment Day 2023 with the theme of “Solutions to Plastic Pollution”, the best way to foster local actions for controlling plastic pollution could be to engage local and community-based functionaries like eco-clubs to reuse and reduce plastics. School has initiated some good practices like segregation of plastic waste and managing them through sells. In next couple of years, ILaM project aims to capacitate more schools’ teachers, eco-club networks, eco-clubs through replication of best practices on plastic waste management, exposure visits, talent competitions in environmental themes, regular orientation, and sensitizations on forest/wildlife conservation with the hope of creating eco-leaders to advocate for eco-friendly practices in future.
Bhawana Sitaula, Field Program Officer, ILaM Project