JIS: The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation is calling for schools to participate in its Youth Environment Advocacy Programme (YEAP), which seeks to empower students to respond to environmental concerns.
Senior Director in the Environment and Risk Management Division of the Ministry, Gillian Guthrie, said YEAP, launched in July 2016, aims to engage students in environmental advocacy as well as to help them identify innovative solutions to various challenges.
“All the Government agencies produce policies, legislation and environmental programmes. We want the youth to be able to speak to these… we want to hear the voice of the youth. We want to know what they are interested in, what their issues are and also to encourage them to find innovative solutions to national environmental issues,” she explained.
Since the start of the programme, the Ministry has hosted regional sessions at St. Hugh’s and Holy Childhood High in Kingston; The Manning’s School, Westmorland; and Mount Alvernia High, St. James.
Schools within the vicinity of the host institutions were invited to participate. Themes covered included climate change and waste management.
The quarterly sessions will be taken to Portland in September, where discussions will focus on the theme: ‘Disaster Risk Reduction’.
“This theme is very apt given climate change and weather events being experienced in Jamaica. I think the youth will have a lot to say on what the challenges are and how the country and they, the youth, can assist in addressing these challenges,” Ms. Guthrie told JIS News.
She is urging private sector support for the programme, which targets young people ages 11 to 19.
“We are asking the private sector to partner with us in sponsorship of the regional sessions as well as to participate and have dialogue with the youth on national environmental issues,” she said.
Public sector partners on YEAP include the Forestry Department, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Ministry of Health and the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NWSMA).
Non-governmental organisations such as the University of the West Indies (UWI) Department of Life Sciences and the Recycling Partners of Jamaica have also collaborated on the programme.
During the regional sessions, technical officers from relevant agencies engage students in discussion on a particular theme, following which the students are placed in groups for further analysis. They are required to make a presentation detailing their thoughts on the issue and how they can contribute to the solution.
Ms. Guthrie said feedback from students about the sessions has been positive, as they have expressed excitement about the programme and a desire to see it expanded to include communication in-between the meetings.
In addition to sustained social media engagement with the students on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, YEAP has also led to clean-up campaigns and recycling programmes being implemented at the schools.
The institutions are encouraged to establish environmental clubs or strengthen existing groups to further disseminate the messages of the programme.
“This is a programme to build the capacity of the youth. We are looking to the youth being able to take ownership and leadership of the YEAP once their capacity gets to a certain level,” Ms. Guthrie pointed out.
She is encouraging principals, teachers and students to contact the Ministry’s website at www.mwh.gov.jm.
CAPTION: Students participate in a Youth Environmental Advocacy Programme (YEAP) regional session at the Mount Alvernia High School in St. James recently.