Uniting Nigerian children to fight climate change

by Odimegwu Onwumere

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.”

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.

“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.”

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