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Cultivating an Eco-friendly Culture in Indonesia’s Schools

Students at the Santo Markus I Elementary School in East Jakarta, Indonesia, learn how to plant medicinal herbs as part of their green programme. Courtesy Ruben Kharisma

Students at the Santo Markus I Elementary School in East Jakarta, Indonesia, learn how to plant medicinal herbs as part of their green programme. Courtesy Ruben Kharisma

JAKARTA, Oct 28 2020 (IPS) - In West Jakarta, Indonesia, teachers at the private Santo Kristoforus High School are so environmentally conscious they make other schools seem a little bit green when it comes to environmental education.

“We integrate environmental issues into science, especially natural science subjects. At school we teach them to conserve water and electricity. And since we don’t have a designated area for students to grow and learn about plants, we organise field trips to botanical gardens in the capital Jakarta and surrounding towns,” teacher Senobius Santi told IPS.

Santo Markus I, a private elementary school in East Jakarta, Indonesia, also has  a green vision. Since it opened in 2006, the science and homeroom teachers have been integrating environmental issues into their classes and designing extracurricular activities aimed at teaching students to care for the environment.

“We usually ask our students to bring medicinal herbs to be planted in what we call family garden under the guidance of their teachers. We homeroom teachers meet every two months to evaluate the programme,” teacher Ruben Kharisma told IPS.

He explained that the school’s green programme is not limited to planting medicinal herbs.

“We also teach our students environmental cleanliness, including disposing of trash at designated bins and keeping a roaster of students cleaning classrooms after school hours.”

Both schools could be candidates for the country’s Adiwiyata award, which is given to elementary, junior high, and senior high schools that have integrated environmental issues into their education system, including extracurricular activities.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry introduced the award in 2006, with the aim to develop environmentally-conscious school that are able to participate and contribute to efforts for conservation and sustainable development. The award has four indicators that include; an environment-based school policy, an environment-based curriculum, participatory environmental activities, and environmentally-friendly supporting facilities.

Indonesia has been listed among the world’s biggest polluters, producing a total of 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2015. In 2016, the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions went down to 1.46 million metric tons and fell down further to 1.15 million metric tons in 2017, according to Indonesia’s Statistics Agency

Land-use change and forestry contributed at least 65.5 percent of GHG emissions, followed by the energy sector at 22.6 percent, and agriculture at 7.4 percent

A 2018 study by Greenpeace and AirVisual IQ showed that Jakarta ranked first in Southeast Asia for the worst air quality and that Jakarta, along with Hanoi, was one of Southeast Asia’s two-most polluted cities.

In 2009, the country pledged in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce GHG emissions by 29 percent below the business as usual level by 2030, and by 41 percent with international support.

But Prof. Arief Rachman, Executive Chairman of the Indonesian National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and Ministry of Education and Culture official, said the Adiwiyata campaign would help government efforts to reduce the country’s GHG emissions.

“Indeed, the green campaign would not bring immediate results, but we are on the right track. We have to cultivate environmental awareness among the country’s young generations if we want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” Rahman told IPS.

“We have around 51 million students from the elementary to senior high school level and 2.7 million teachers, it takes time to mobilise all of them. But I believe we are on the right track. We have to educate our young students to care for the environment and cultivate a nature-loving culture and environment in the school compound,” Rachman said.

According to Rachman, the Adiwiyata programme focuses on climate change education and accommodates UNESCO’s Education for Sustainable Development criteria of “student participation, community involvement, varied learning methods, local excellence-based learning, and proactive actions”.

“The Adiwiyata programme is built on two basic principles of participation and sustainability. Participation means school communities are actively involved in school management from planning, implementation, and evaluation based on their role and responsibility, while sustainability means all school activities should be well planned continuously and comprehensively,” he said in a recent regional webinar hosted by UNESCO Jakarta Office.

Asri Tresnawati, an official from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, told IPS that between 2006 until 2019, the ministry has given national green awards to 3,477 schools.

However, this year the green award was scrapped due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic that has killed 13,612 people out of 400,483 confirmed cases in the country, according to Johns Hopkins

Experts expect the coronavirus pandemic will reduce Indonesia’s 2020 emissions by between two to six percent compared to 2019, mainly due to a decrease in household consumption, a slowdown in investments, and a fall in coal and palm oil exports. 

Ananto K. Seta, Education for Sustainable Development Coordinator at the Indonesian National Commission for UNESCO, said the current COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge for education. According to Seta, over 50 million students in Indonesia are temporarily out of school due to COVID-19. 

“The biggest challenges that students face while learning at home is the lack of internet access and electronic devices, lack of teachers’ ability to deliver (online) the education curriculum, and lack of parents’ ability to accompany their children for learning at home,” he told a recent webinar.

The green programmes run by Santo Markus I and Santo Kristoforus High School are obviously hard to continue in their entirety with pupils learning from home.

But Tresnawati, from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, told IPS the COVID-19 pandemic was a learning opportunity about the strong relation between human health and environmental sustainability.

“When the environment is destroyed or contaminated, new diseases will appear. The COVID-19 pandemic also wakes us up to the reality that we have to take care of the environment just as we take care of ourselves,” Tresnawati said.

But until schools reopen, students will have to learn this lesson from home.

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