The New Times (Kigali)

7 August 2014

Rwanda: Activists Take Environment Awareness Drive to Schools

More than 300 secondary school students in Rwanda were trained in environment protection and sustainable development during the previous term.

The two-day workshop was conducted at 11 secondary schools across the country. It was organised by Partnership Rhineland-Palatinate/Rwanda with the aim of promoting ecology and sustainable development.

"It is our responsibility to protect the environment and address problems caused by humankind. The country has to develop in the right direction but without knowledge this is not possible," said Jean-Marie Zirimwabagabo, head of school partnerships at Partnership Rhineland-Palatinate/Rwanda.

Students learnt about the origin of life, humanity's impact on the planet, and new technologies.

They were shown the environment documentary "HOME" by French director Yann-Arthus Bertrand. After each sequence, students worked individually and in groups to discuss and make presentations on various topics such as water consumption, and energy.

Most of the students were hearing about evolution and learning about the impact human beings have on the environment for the first time.

"I have learnt that it is the responsibility of all people to conserve the environment," said Shaffia Rizinde, a student from Ecole des Sciences St Louis de Mont Fort Nyanza.

Robert Cyuzuzo, another participant from Rusumo Secondary School, said Rwanda needs to develop its energy sector in a sustainable way.

"Environment protection does not mean that we stop exploting natural resources, but it means using the environment in an appropriate way to bring about sustainable development," Cyuzuzo said.

Teachers also learned more about environment related subjects such as Biology, Chemistry and Geography.

Wivine Munezero, a teacher at Nyagahanga Secondary School, said she learned a lot from the workshop, especially about the negative impact of human activities and how to prevent pollution.

"Environmental education is vital for both teachers and students. When we are aware about environmental protection, we can participate in environmental conservation and also help sensitise others about the need to protect the environment," she explained.

At the end of the final workshop last week, the instructors and partners of the trainings were very optimistic about the future of ecologists in Rwanda.

"The students who attended the workshop are now environment trainers and can help teach their classmates, friends and families," says Jean Gumiriza, the director of Ecole des Sciences St Louis de Mont Fort Nyanza.

He said their next step is to plant trees on the school compound.

The Rhineland-Palatinate-Rwanda Partnership plans to take the trainings to more schools.

Zirimwabagabo said people need to be sensitised about the importance of environment and the negative consequences of neglecting it. The benefit for schools and students is big but also the country benefits because its development is based on environment conservation, he explained.

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