clean middle east
Dated: 17-04-2018

"Education is the key to any change."
- Janet Hartzenberg, RAKWMA’s Outreach Co-ordinator

Recently, it was announced that schools across Ras Al Khaimah would be assessed and graded to measure their commitment to environmentally sustainable practices from the beginning of the 2017/18 academic year, in a pioneering initiative. The new ‘Green Rating’ system for schools is a joint scheme being launched by the Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency (RAKWMA), a subsidiary of the Public Works Department, and the Ras Al Khaimah Education Zone. It aims to ensure that students and teachers across the Emirate are learning more about sustainable environmental practices and developing more proactive and positive responses to environmental issues, through evaluating and grading participating schools based on a set of established criteria. The schools programme has the blessing and support of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, and demonstrates the important connection between education and sustainability, two cornerstones of His Highness’ vision for Ras Khaimah.

Clean Middle East speaks with Janet Hartzenberg, RAKWMA’s Outreach Co-ordinator about the programme. 

What was the idea behind the RAK Green Schools Programme?

Education is the key to any change, and by changing the way students think and act, it is the only way to secure real changes in behaviour and long-term success. With this as a starting point and knowing that the environmental issues will need long-term commitment and behaviour changes, the idea of getting schools to commit to educating students appropriately through a guided initiative, formed the foundation of RAK Green Schools.

How did you get involved in this field and such a program? What is your sustainability vision?

I have been in the field of education for many years and have always had a very keen interest in the environment and making a difference. It was a very personal choice to become more actively involved with environmental issues. Starting the RAK Green Schools initiative seemed a very logical thing to do as it makes larger initiatives such as the ECO Schools Initiative more relevant to Ras Al Khaimah.

My vision is the same as the Government of Ras al Khaimah’s vision is in keeping with Vision 2021 to divert 75 % of all waste from the landfill and to reduce the generation of waste to one kg per person per day.

Why schools in specific?

All schools in Ras Al Khaimah emirate both private and public are aware of the need to provide students with a clean and safe environment so that learning can be as effective as possible. Schools offer the ideal environment to encourage and support solid behavior patterns related to the environment. Students enter school to gain knowledge and understanding and having both knowledge and understanding regarding the environment especially recycling and waste management and their part is one way to ensure the younger generation respects and takes care of the environment. What are the various efforts of the RAK Green School Program and how are you spreading the awareness?

A major element of RAK Green schools is to recognize and reward schools for the efforts that they are already making to nurture recycling and other environmentally friendly behaviors. The fact that our environment needs healing and protecting is not new. Students are the future generation of leaders, and they are being fully engaged to understand ways to recycle and take care of the earth. RAK Green Schools was also established to support and encourage schools and students while they learn more about the environment and the role that individuals and groups can play.

What, in your opinion, are the best practices involved in maintaining a sustainable environment in a school? Are teachers and students the biggest stakeholders?

Teachers and students are not the only stakeholders, parents and cleaners are also stakeholders and important role-players. In my opinionm the best practices related to maintaining a sustainable environment are the practices related to reducing what we take from the environment and those practices that ensure that what is taken from the environment has the longest possible life span. For example, ensuring that only recycled paper is used at a school for printing is a sure way to reduce what is being taken from the environment for what is needed. Students using recycled materials for projects is a wonderful way to ensure that what has been taken from the environment does not land up in a landfill after only limited use. Sometimes the simplest practices are the best practices.

What kind of training must teachers be given to inculcate a sense of sustainability in children? Are there any training programs that you are conducting towards the same?

Teachers need to be constantly updated regarding the latest research related to the environment and the impact that we have on the environment. It is also important for teachers to be aware of what other schools, Emirates and countries are doing so that they can be well informed and follow what may be proven to have been successful elsewhere. It is not always necessary to reinvent the wheel.

We are constantly visiting schools providing teachers, parents and students with training and information sharing sessions. We discuss the role of the Ras Al Khaimah Waste Management Agency and advise how all can participate in recycling initiatives.

How are you involving the children in this vision?

Students are constantly encouraged to participate in events and to start initiatives of their own to make a difference. Schools are encouraged to appoint Green Ambassadors and if they do they are given points towards their RAK Green Schools evaluations.

Do you plan to extend this concept to other emirates as well?

The Public Services Department and the Waste Management Agency are working under the guidance of the Ministry of Climate Change to develop new ideas on sustainability for school children, residents and businesses.


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