Growing a sustainable environment from our schools

We often talk about the legacy we will leave our children and our grandchildren.

We are aware that we only reside on this planet for a limited time and that there is a duty on all of us to pass it on in good shape. The desire in all of us to be more 'green' comes from awareness of the damage resulting from climate change and mistreating our environment. We must act.

In the field of education, we know that habits learnt at a young age are ingrained in the mind and difficult to shake off later in life. This increases the responsibility on schools to make sure that children, even at a young age - indeed, especially at a young age - are surrounded by positive perceptions of life. Important concepts need to be introduced from the very start.

Among these important notions is that of environmental sustainability and the eco-school model, which is widespread in Maltese and Gozitan schools.

Through the help of local NGOs, schools are empowered to take action and improve their close environment. Earlier this month a number of schools were awarded the Green Flag for their efforts in improving the environmental credentials in their proximity, and the concept has gained ground over the past years.

In order to improve the environment of tomorrow, we must build on this. It is crucial to ensure that more schools embark on further green projects in order to continue raising the educational standard in this area and cultivate the seed for tomorrow's society.

Through the EkoSkola project, an initiative started in 2002, a lot of work has been carried out in schools all over Malta and Gozo and today's child is more than ever aware of the importance of environmental issues and the challenges they bring with them.

It is good to empower children and schools alike to embark on green projects. Over the years, through the help of many resourceful educators and NGOs, children have benefited from an additional educational experience.

I hope that this has been an enjoyable experience for the children who took part. I know that these initiatives can be carried out in an engaging way, making learning fun. During numerous award ceremonies it is pleasant to note that children are genuinely excited about the green projects they embarked on and speak of them with a sense of pride.

Unlike some concepts in education, the environment is an easy one to grasp. We all walk by the sea, breathe in air and relax under the sun. And while the consequences of climate change aren't always obvious we have all witnessed damage to the environment. We see dumped waste, terrible eyesores and choke on pollution.

Our children can teach us a thing or two as well. If their innocence enables them to grasp the importance of preserving a good environment then maybe we should follow their lead and accept their wisdom. When children prefer good over bad, they are expressing themselves in very simple terms, but that should be inspiration for us all.

Evarist Bartolo is Minister for Education