The sleepy town of Angal in Nebbi district turned into a beehive of activity last Saturday as students of Angal Secondary School cleaned up the messy sprouting urban area in Nyaravur sub-county.
The school, with an enrolment of over 1,500 students, descended on the trading center early in the morning, picking and burning all forms of litter — from plastic waste to fallen leaves — and opening up clogged drainage channels.
Angal Secondary School is one of the beneficiaries of the Green Schools Initiative being implemented by New Vision in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with funding from the Swedish Embassy.
Project by the school
The school has lined up several interventions to mitigate the effects of climate change, including community engagement and sensitization on proper waste management practices, tree planting, and debating competitions on climate and environment-related topics.
Julius Byaruhanga, the coordinator of the green club at the school, says while they cannot plant more trees due to the current dry spell, the students are going to the surrounding communities to create awareness on climate change.
Taking the initiative to the community
The Saturday cleaning exercise in Angal Town Council was one of the community sensitization drives by the school.
Byaruhanga says their intervention in the community was driven by the need to have a clean and green environment, and he is hopeful that the community, through its local structure, will own the initiative.
"Ours was to raise awareness and sensitize them to the dangers of improper garbage disposal, and we hope that through our intervention, they will be able to learn and replicate the same at their business premises and homesteads," Byaruhanga says.
Ban of polythene bags
To lead by example, Byaruhanga says the school has banned the use of polythene bags on the school compound by adopting it as one of the school's rules and regulations.
“Every student is checked at the gate by the teachers on duty and the school guards to ensure that no one enters with a polythene bag (kavera). We are happy that the students are coping well by opting for alternatives like the use of buckets to keep their items such as sugar.
“This has left our compound clean and free from Kavera because, over the years, the school has lost many animals that consumed polythene bags poorly disposed of by the students. Any student found with kaveri on the school compound is compelled to clean the whole compound as a punishment for breaking the rule,” he says.
Byaruhanga says despite the project being time-bound, they have a long-term plan beyond the scope of the project because it has been in the strategic plan of the school.
“We are going to strengthen the green team to ensure the sustainability of the project. We plan to take up the projects the school had initiated, and we are also encouraging all the students and teachers to join the club. We also encourage every teacher to at least talk about climate change during their lessons, and through this, the gospel of climate change mitigation will spread,” Byaruhanga says.
Teopista Nangabi, the agriculture teacher and one of the teachers spearheading the green school project at Angal Secondary School, says the challenges they faced at the project's initiation included less teacher involvement in green club activities such as tree planting.
She said they also had a challenge with termites that destroy the planted trees.
Impact of the project
Nangabi says despite the project taking a short time, there has already been a reduction in the use of kavera and plastic bottles since they were banned from the school.
“Students’ ownership of the project has improved the cleanliness of our school compound because the students have taken the changes and interventions positively." They abide by the rules set by the school administration and green club. “
"Besides, more students are joining the green club,” Nangabi says. The school, through community engagement, is being appreciated by the area residents after cleaning up around the town council. The community is ready to own and sustain the example set by the students and teachers.
Glory Munguriek Opentho, a 14-year-old Senior Two student who participated in the cleaning exercise, says it is important for them and those around them to stay in a safe and clean environment.
Munguriek says she joined the school’s green club last year, and since then, her vision for the climate and environment has never been the same.
Stephen Yoacel, a Senior Three student, says the surrounding areas at the trading center had been littered with plastic waste and polythene bags, even at the homesteads, which is why they took the initiative to clean the place.
He says the green club has introduced them to several climate-friendly concepts, such as tree planting and garbage management.
Yoacel pledged to transfer the knowledge to his community members during the holidays. Marcel Vanity Maditrwoth, 15, urged students who have not yet joined the club to do so because it will not only benefit the school but also the individual student and their families.
Fred Rwotongeyo, another green club coordinator at the school, says the school is now cleaner and greener because of the club.
He challenged the school administration to institute more rules and regulations regarding environmental conservation and climate change mitigation, apart from banning the use of polythene bags on the school compound.
Sh10m for tree planting
Wilfred Okethwengu, the school’s deputy headteacher, says the school has drafted a five-year strategic development plan for environmental conservation and climate change mitigation by acquiring land to plant its trees that will be used as wood fuel for cooking at the school.
“As a school, we have always budgeted between Sh1 million and Sh2 million every academic year for environmental conservation. This year, the school has allocated about Sh10 million to acquire land for planting our woodlot, and this is going to last for the next five years," Okethwengu said.
Zabibu Okethi, 57, a resident of Oluka village in Nyaravur sub-county, who joined the students in cleaning the trading centre, was full of joy and pledged to replicate it at her home.
“Surely, this area is very dirty and it is not different at our homesteads where kavera and plastic bottles are littered all over the compound. I have learnt today and surely I will try to emulate it,” Okethi said.
According to David Ocan, a health worker in Angal, the community should pick up where the students left off because they were educated on the dangers of polluting the environment.
Doing weekly cleaning
Benjamin Owachgiu, the LC1 chairperson of Centre West cell in Angal town council, was overwhelmed by the gesture shown by the students in mitigating climate change, calling it timely.
“There was a lot of unwanted waste in the trading centre, which polluted the environment. So what they have done should teach us a lesson as a community. Right now, the environment is quite different from what it was before their intervention and we shall replicate what they have done,” Owachgiu said.
He pledged to ensure weekly cleaning exercises in the trading centre, and ensuring that dustbins are mobilised and placed in all the strategic locations.
School backs project
Wilfred Okethwengu, the deputy headteacher, says ever since they were enrolled for the Green Schools Initiative, they have been actively involved in environment related activities because the project is what everyone wants to look at, given the dangerous impact of climate change.
“We are grateful that since the start of this term, we have been receiving New Vision papers, which are in line with promoting the green school and turning the community into a green world. Although we have started engaging the community in adopting climate and environment friendly activities such as collecting garbage, we plan to expand our spectrum to other communities such as hospitals and primary schools. "We are looking at engaging the community to, shortly, own the projects piloted by the school because they are already feeling the dangers of unfriendly environmental activities,” Okethwengu says.
Source: New Vision