Guiding schools on global warming

By Megara Tegal

Rating schools on how eco-friendly they are, the Sri Lanka Girl Guide Association (SLGGA) has set in motion a new project having teamed up with the Ministry of Education.

According to the SLGGA, by introducing a compulsory environmental star-rating for government and semi-private schools island-wide, they hope to raise awareness amongst school-going children of the impact and consequences of global warming and encourage the next generation to take responsibility for the environment.

The project is the brainchild of the director of Communications of SLGGA, Shaleeka Abeygunasekera who is currently heading the initiative. Explaining how the assessment is carried out she says “schools that are a part of the ‘Star-rating’ project will be paid an unannounced visit sometime during the second term by independent inspection panels made up of three SLGGA commissioners and a representative from the ministry. The schools are rated on how well they fulfill the criterion they are asked to follow at the workshop that are put through before they come a board the Star-rating project. Once the schools have been rated, the ministry will issue them a certificate.”

“The girl guides or prefects from schools are first put through a workshop conducted by the SLGGA at which we explain various actions under conserving energy, saving water and planting trees, which are so practical even 7-year-olds will have no problem in carrying them out,” says Shaleeka.

Described by the SLGGA, at the workshops and seminars, students of the schools which registered to be part of the project were educated on the actions needed to reduce the impact of global warming. Key areas that are focused on include reduction of energy consumption, conservation of water, planting trees and recycling. These include simple actions such as switching to energy-saving light bulbs, switching off computers, other electronic equipment when leaving the room, using both sides of paper and using recycling bins.

Students who attend the workshop share what they have learnt with their peers and together they carry out the simple activities and measures to ensure their school is environmentally friendly.

The Star- rating initiative was started in October 2008 and by July 2009 the first round of assessments of the schools which participated in the initial phase of the environmental star-rating project was completed. The first set consisted of 28 schools within the Colombo district.

In order for a school to achieve a 5-star environmental rating, all of the actions detailed at the workshops must be adhered to regularly within the school. An environmental rating of 4 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars, and 1 star can be achieved if 80%, 60%, 40%, and 20% respectively of the listed tasks are being carried out. Points will be awarded based on the degree to which each of the specified actions has been adhered to.

At the first assessment the highest rating issued was of three stars, which was award to Holy Family Convent, Sangamitta Vidyalaya and Welikanna Roman Catholic School.

The Star-rating project has proved to be successful as the schools are trying harder to meet the standards set by the SLGGA and the ministry of education, and more schools are eager to be part of the project.

The Chief Commissioner of the Sri Lanka Girl Guides Association, Kanthi Fernando, commenting on this project said that “being an Association that empowers girls and young women, we too have responsibility towards addressing and being involved with global issues of this nature which threaten the very existence of the core of society that we represent.”

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