Youths take centre stage for this year’s awards
Global High Schools a key driver in educating the next generation
THE ZAYED SUSTAINABILITY Prize has funded projects around the world for more than a decade, bringing renewable energy to rural areas while providing jobs and creating micro-economies.
Last year, the prize announced a refocus that recognised the need for new categories to be added, to challenge sustainable solutions across several sectors.
One of the major changes for this year’s award of the renamed prize is the new category for Global High School.
The award challenges young people to take responsibility for developing new green community projects at their schools and inspire surrounding communities to take up similar initiatives.
The 2018-19 awards cycle attracted a record 2,101 entries from 130 countries in health, food, energy and water.
In the history of the prize, the UAE has provided four Global High School finalists and one winner.
Muntinlupa National High School in the Philippines has more than 10,000 pupils and about 400 teachers. The school’s submission is geared towards providing affordable energy by converting micro-algae to biodiesel, which can be used as a green alternative to fossil fuels.
Algae absorbs up to 18,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide an acre a year, so it also acts as an effective way to reduce carbon emissions. The project hopes to provide a source of income to communities, who can sell cultivated algae and related products.
The American School of Dubai has 500 pupils, and was established in 1966 by the Dubai Petroleum Company to educate the children of expatriate workers from the US.
The school is another finalist in the GHS category, and has introduced an industrial composter, using food and landscaping waste and a beehive on campus.
“Our work is increasingly based on the notion that sustainability is not separate from other aspects of life and learning,” a school spokesman said.
“It is a crucial component that allows our community to recognise the importance of the connections between economic, social, and environmental components of what we do in the wider world.
“Our students have been integral in eliminating plastic water bottles from our campus, creating a sustainability mission statement and establishing best practices for sustainability.”
Another GHS finalist is the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh, a non-profit organisation in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Since 1988, government reforms have improved the school’s pass rate in the 10th grade from 5 per cent to 75 per cent. The campus aims to be self-sustainable by using solar energy and solar panels.
It has its own garden, solar cookers and heaters, and all buildings are solar-heated, reducing the use of fuel to heat rooms in winter when temperatures regularly drop below freezing.
The kitchen is 33 per cent self-sufficient through its gardens but the target is to increase that to 90 per cent.
Another finalist, Ong’ata Barrikoi, is a school in the heart of the Maasai Mara in Kenya, one of East Africa’s greatest game reserves.
The school is for young adults from five tribes – Kipsigis, Maasai, Kuria, Kisii and Luo.
Like most of the schools, Ong’ata Barrikoi is addressing key sustainability goals laid down by the UN.
Pupils and teachers there have developed permaculture gardens and a food programme to address malnourishment among children in the area.
Rainwater collection systems and greywater recycling has placed less pressure on the need for river water, and solar panels power girls and boys school buildings.
A school in Brazil has similar ambitions to become self-sufficient and reduce its demand for power from the national grid.
The Centro Educacional Agrourbano in the Distrito Federal area of central Brazil hopes to become the first completely sustainable school in the country, and a centre of excellence for others to follow.
“One of the main challenges we expect to overcome lies in financing,” the school said.
“This has been a key issue over the past few years because as it stands, our project is limited in scope and scale by the costs in establishing it.
“Another substantial challenge we wish to see solved is the importance of dedicated environmental education in our country, proving that it is not only important for the country to recognise the relevance of the environmental questions but also to embody this mindset with future generations.”