Poor waste disposal practices are a challenge in Lagos State, especially in low-income, densely-populated communities where indiscriminate disposal of waste has become an eyesore and a health hazard. However, KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE reports that pupils of seven public primary schools have shown that the environment can be clean and waste recycled for wealth by putting into practice the environmental education curriculum through the Clean our World project.
Few people believed that Atanda Street in Sari Iganmu area of Orile Iganmu, a slum community in Lagos State, could ever be clean. A stagnant pool of murky, smelly water on a reasonable stretch of the road was home to all kinds of litter, used tyres and sand bags.
Traversing the road, especially on rainy days, was nightmarish for pupils of Metropolitan Primary School, Orile Iganmu as they were in danger of falling into the water. That was why when they embarked on a community clean-up and sensitisation as part of an environmental project, Clean our World (COW), initiated by Oando Foundation, in collaboration with Sumitomo Chemicals, a Japanese firm, they were applauded by residents of the community.
The clean-up was massive. The pupils, their teachers and members of the community packed the solid and plastic waste from the road and drain and left the street cleaner than many could remember in a long time.
The school’s Head Teacher, Mr. Julius Abiodun, said of the exercise: “Atanda Street in Orile Iganmu, I can say is one of the dirtiest streets in Lagos State. But when Clean our World came, they provided the necessary materials that can be used to clean the environment. They gave us shovels, gloves, hand pickers that can be used to pick all those dirt, and waste management vehicle. Members of the communities, leaders, School Based Management Committee (SBMC) were all involved and we cleaned everything. The members of that street were very happy because the environment was very clean.”
The SBMC Chairman, Apapa Local Government Education Authority, Mr. Ademola Fashina, said the exercise made a big difference.
“The community clean-up has been wonderful because they encouraged us to clean the dirtiest street in Sari Iganmu, Orile. All the members of the community on that street, the Baale, youth leader, councilor were happy.
“The cleaning made a very big difference. The video was shown before we started; you see how the place was very dirty; and after the cleaning you see how clean the place was,” he said.
The effort by Metropolitan Primary School in the clean-up exercise, as well as gardening and farming, pet bottle collection, and recycling and upcycling activities throughout the 2020/2021 academic session won it the first prize for the COW project – a six-seater swing for its playground and public address system (PAS).
Prizes were presented to the school and six others that participated in COW during the past academic year last Friday at the Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) hall in Maryland. Olokun Primary School, Ilasamaja, came second and got four-seater merry-go-round and PAS; while Methodist Primary School, Ilasamaja, was third and got a four-seater seesaw and PAS.
The other three schools, Ire-Akari Primary School, Ilasmaja, Olisa Primary School, Mushin, and Dele Ajomale Primary School, Ilasamaja got learning materials and school supplies as consolation prizes.
Altogether, pupils of the seven schools, working under environmental education clubs set up for the project, collected 1,000 kg of plastic bottles (600kg by Metropolitan Primary School alone), some of which they were taught to recycle and upcycle into artwork and other useful items by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and the African Clean Up Initiative, which acted as implementing partners on the project.
The NCF and the Africa Clean Up initiative exposed teachers, pupils and members of the SBMC in each of the seven schools to environmental awareness, recycling and up-cycling activities. The exposure resulted in the teachers, pupils and community members gaining myriads of new skills, which they could use to earn extra income.
Abiodun said because of the COW project his school was cleaner – thanks to the provision of sufficient refuse bins by the foundation. He also said farming had helped with food supply to the workers and the community.
“The Clean Our World has done tremendously many things for not only my school but the community as a whole. In our school different waste bins were provided which aids the cleanliness of the school environment. Aside from that they also sponsored our farm from where a portion was cleared, some ridges were made. The Oando Foundation supplied us with compost, manure and seeds like okra and maize; vegetables like ewedu, pumpkin.
“We have been farming. We have harvested our maize; we distributed it to the members of the community, the Education secretary in our LGEA and some parents. All the teachers, I have 24 members of staff, were given part of the harvested maize. Presently we are harvesting okra and vegetables,” he said.
The recycling and upcycling skills are well appriecated by the COW project participants as it has created an avenue for expanding their income. The pupils, teachers and community members were taught how to make decorations, pencil case, ottoman, among others from plastic waste.
Fashina said parents had been coming to report of their wards’ demonstration of the new-found knowledge and skills at home to their delight.
“They have done something that really touches me by training. They trained the pupils; they trained us the executives; they trained the teachers and members of the community how to recycle waste to valuable things like house decorations, sitting decorations and so on.
“Presently, all our pupils use to worry their parents at home; ‘Mummy do not waste this thing, we can use it to do this do that.’ I am really impressed, honestly. I have to be sincere with you, majority of the parents of our pupils in the school come around and ask, ‘what are you telling these pupils that they disturb us at home?’
A teacher at Ire Akari Primary School, Mrs. Juliana Okunola, said the training had empowered her pupils.
“The training has made them to be creative and think on their own. You know what is going on in the country now. Assuming there is no work, they can still use their hands to make something like the ottoman and make money from it. It is made out of plastic and cardboard stapled together and covered with fabric. People can use it; you can put it in the sitting room,” she said.
Mrs. Okunola said the pupils also enjoyed the farming activities which hold once in a week.
“They have taken us back to our source. In Nigeria, our major occupation is farming. These children, anytime they go to the farm, they really enjoy it,” she said.
Metropolitan School Head boy, Chisom Abonyi, said he was happy to show off his skills, but fails to share his trade secrets to enquirers. He said he had learnt to make face shields, pencil case and other items from plastic waste.
“I can use my skills to decorate our house. I show people what I make. But when they ask me, how did you make it, I tell them they cannot understand,” he said.
Dorcas Joshua, a primary six pupil of Olisa Primary School, Mushin, was excited to share how much she had learnt from the COW project with this reporter.
“I feel very good that I attended this programme and I am happy for that. What they taught us is very useful. They taught us how to use our modelling materials; how to use our (bottle) covers, beads to make creative things. We brought a lion (framed mosaic of a lion made with broken bottles). We used plank, materials, broken bottles and gum to make the lion,” she said with pride.
Regarding cleanliness, Dorcas said: “Sometimes, when I enter my class and I see a piece of paper or dirt on the floor, I will tell the pupils that we are securing our health, let us sweep it together. We sweep row by row. This row will sweep in Monday, the next on Tuesday and that’s how we make it clean.”
Head, Oando Foundation, Adekanla Adegoke said the initiative was the co-curricular aspect of the environmental education curriculum that deals with the care of the environment. She said it provided the pupils the opportunity to engage in the practical aspects of what they were taught in class.
“We actually have environmental education in our curriculum. But the focus has largely been on the core curriculum and not the co-curricular activities. However to ensure that every aspect of the curriculum is put into action, we worked with NCF and African Clean up Initiative who have the technical expertise to help us with the training; they produced the manuals used.
Ms. Adegoke said it was important to involve the children in protecting the environment as they would one day be leaders. She described it as passing the baton to them.
Following this successful run of the COW project, Ms. Adegoke said the Foundation plans to expand to more schools while ensuring that the pioneer schools continue implementing the initiative.
“The manuals we gave them for environmental education still have several modules they have not yet implemented so the schools will continue; then we expand to other schools,” she said.
Chairman, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB), Mr. Wahab Alawiye-King, praised Oando Foundation and Sumitomo Chemicals for supporting the board to make learning more concrete – explaining that it was in line with the government’s new drive at experimental learning (called experimento) in its public schools.
He said through the project, the pupils learnt with their hands, heads and hearts and now know more about the environment.
“This is part of the experimento initiative of our board and that is to use enquiry based learning approach to expand what we do in EkoEXCEL. It is a practical way of learning and that is what is happening here – trying to expose the pupils to their surroundings – let them know what is happening in their environment; making school more lively using practical and live experiences to show what is happening in the world,” he said.
Alawiye-King said COW had worked and can be expanded to other schools.
“We have seen it; it has worked. We can see this as a pilot programme which has worked. We need to expand it to other schools so that they know what is happening across the world. We must expose our pupils the right way to live; our actions and inactions, what they can cause to the environment,” he said.