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Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Uniting Nigerian children to fight climate change

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has shown a well deserved approbation: He was vigilant in seeing the importance of children beyond their believed exclusive assignments of classroom and domestic chores. And he involved them in environmental issues by institutionalising Climate Change Clubs in schools across Lagos State.

The project was aimed at correcting the mistakes of the past and makes a continuing choice. It’s the government’s strategic and balancing efforts for protecting the climate. Represented by his Deputy, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire at the sixth anniversary of Climate Change Clubs in the state schools held this year, Fashola said, “For us in Lagos state, we are vulnerable to the effects of global warming. The establishment of climate change clubs in our schools is part of our strategic and complementary efforts to correct the mistakes of the past. I believe I do not need to emphasise that our children are the future of this nation and they will be the next parents and leaders who will take over the running of our families and most especially, the affairs of this country when we are no more. If we do not teach them what is right, they will not escape doing what is wrong."

His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN)

Fighting for society

The governor has seen children as vital specie in the society to fight climate change with, especially as they belong to the future. That was coming on the hills that climate change has become a global challenge that exceeds beyond borders. In initiating the club in 2008, Fashola had believed that young people have shown their prospective at assorted forums across the world through their creative thinking and inventions. Today, he said, they have brought positive thoughts and ingenuity to global intergovernmental process, demanding real action from their governments. In 2013, a pupil from Grace Schools in Lagos, his painting was picked as the best entry for African region in a United Nations organised global competition in environment-subjected painting aimed at increasing young people’s involvement in environmental activities. The pupil was 10-year old Ephraim Finapri.

The then Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Muiz Adeyemi Banire in March 2011, noted that the climate change clubs were part of attempts to catch the future leaders young and establish in them the causes and effects of climate change and their position headed-for a sustainable environment.

Describing Finapri, award-winning Environmentalist Greg Odogwu, said, “A pupil from Grace Schools in Lagos, painted an idyllic world where variety of beings live in harmony with water and are revitalised by it, with human beings as the architect behind this ideal picture.”

Odogwu, however, has his fears. He continued, “Looking at several climate-related phenomena – extreme weather, air pollution, infectious diseases, and heat – provides a starting point for exploring how the changing climate may affect children’s health. Globally, 66.5 million children were affected by weather-related disasters every year between 1990 and 2000. Save the Children UK estimates that in the last decade, up to 175 million children were affected every year by the kinds of natural disasters brought about by climate change..."

Speaking about the energy in young artists against climate change, the UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said, “These budding young artists showed that they not only understand the crucial role of natural systems in providing this most fundamental of resources, but the impacts on humans and wildlife when we damage and degrade our water-generating environment in the name of progress.”

Addressing the problem

In December 2010, as part of programmes targeted at building up children towards the fight against climate change, a British environmental activist Katrin Macmillan launched Nigeria’s bottle recycling programme. Since then, the project has seen ‘used plastic bottles and their lids’ are now being around the environment for children to build bottle house.

His Excellency, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN)

“Nigeria has a serious waste and energy problem and this project is one small step towards making positive changes. This project can be easily replicated and is a wonderful way to enable Nigeria to recycle in a creative and practical way,” said Katrin Macmillan, (Climate change communication and advocacy for an Eco-friendly Nigeria).

“Following on from this first Nigerian bottle house the children at the African School of Excellence in Seluja have started making the bottle ‘bricks’ for their new school hall and students will be involved throughout the build. The school hall will take 200,000 bottles out of landfill and into education.”

While many people and organisations are just ringing alarm bells over climate change, Fashola has shown through his Climate change clubs in schools that he does not want the children to inherit a future that is damaged by global warming, which has been shown that Africa will be worst dealt with by the menace. The World Bank in a study in 2007 had said that Nigeria records one out of sixth gas-flaring, discharging some 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In praising the efforts of Fashola, Odogwu said, “I am not by any means surprised that the child who got the award for Africa came from Lagos. Lagos State has been consistent in its mitigation and adaptation strategies against climate change. It has designed robust programme to indoctrinate young Lagosians into the culture of thinking and living green. Take for instance, its Climate Change Clubs in schools of Lagos. As one of the programmes of these clubs, school children are conveyed weekly to environmental landmarks, project sites, industries, and green habitats in Lagos State with a view to increasing their capacity on green issues.”

Energy and efficiency

Governor Fashola has all the same been proud that the children’s participation which he said was noticeable in the areas of "energy conservation and efficiency, recycling, greening, resource conservation and recovery, among others". He told newsmen, “This theme as a matter of fact, is a timely wake-up call inviting all our young ones globally to join hands in the fight against climate change. I have it on good authority that the knowledge and skills displayed by climate change members in their respective schools clearly shows that our immediate and future environment is going to be safe and secured."

The children have seen that climate change is the current issue in the menu of global discourse. Odogwu reiterated that governments must board on two key policies in order to guarantee that the Nigerian child is prepared for the future. “First, the school curriculum must be tweaked to accommodate environmental issues; then the Lagos strategy must be replicated in all the states of the Federation…”

Finapri whispered, “Without water, no living thing can survive on earth. I would like everyone to contribute in stopping water pollution. Most especially our oil producing companies who spill oil into the rivers and also factories that pollute the air.” 

Odimegwu Onwumere

Odimegwu Onwumere is a poet/writer based in Rivers State, in Nigeria.

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