SIERRA LEONE: Students to learn about environment, receive support for studies
Salesians in Lungi start Climate Club to focus on environmental education for youth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Father Philip Gboa has launched a new Climate Club in Lungi, a small coastal town in the Port Loko District of the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. The club will be open to the more than 6,000 youth in the local Salesian schools and youth center and will have a focus on environmental education and activities. The goal is to start the club with at least 60 youth. Ten volunteer teachers at St. Augustine Agricultural Secondary and Junior Secondary Schools will facilitate the program,
“When the world is talking about climate change and environmental impact, it’s not being talked about here,” said Fr. Gboa. “People throw garbage around and don’t really care about the environment much. They cut down trees for no reason. There are plastic bags littered all over. We have beaches but no one uses them because they are so dirty. As a result, we have diseases like cholera and typhoid, and something needs to change. It’s not just the parents who are impacted, it’s the children too.”
While there have been some initiatives launched by the government, such as a last Saturday of the month cleanup, Fr. Gboa reports that the environment doesn’t stay clean long. He wants to teach children how to care for the environment and instill in them the knowledge of why it’s so important in order to have the greatest long-term impact.
Fr. Gboa said, “It occurred to me that people may litter because they have never been taught to care about the environment. So, this is the time now to teach our young people. If we teach them in schools, they will go and teach others as they go to universities or back home with their parents. They will be able to share about the Climate Club, what they are learning and the importance of not destroying the environment. The young people have to be the ambassadors.”
The Climate Club will run three days a week and offer youth educational sessions and activities that will teach them about the environment and allow them to put those lessons into action. As an incentive to take part, Fr. Gboa said that youth who become ambassadors will be eligible for financial support to cover 50 percent of their university fees.
“There are many intelligent and motivated youth who want to continue their studies after secondary school but who cannot afford to go to university,” added Fr. Gboa. “If they become ambassadors in the Climate Club, we will help them financially to continue their education. They will never forget the lessons they learned in the club and know that it was the club that helped them be able to continue school. They will also pay that forward by teaching others what they have learned.”
Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001 when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers through the organization Don Bosco Fambul. Don Bosco Fambul, located in the capital city of Freetown, has become one of the country’s leading child welfare organizations—offering food, clothing, crisis intervention services, shelter, educational opportunities, long-term counseling and family reunification.
Young people also face significant challenges in accessing education. With too few teachers and many school buildings destroyed in the war, resources are thin. Persistently high illiteracy rates mean that an estimated 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s youth are unemployed or underemployed.
Photo from video courtesy of Salesians of Lungi, Sierra Leone
Salesian Missions – Sierra Leone
UNICEF – Sierra Leone