From classrooms made of recycled plastic bricks to green initiatives
Young people and children, the first actors for the protection of the environment in their communities
Yopougon Sogefiha is a popular sub-district in the Ivorian economic capital, Abidjan, and the "Mamie Faitai" school in the heart of this overcrowded district has for some months now been home to a building of two classrooms made of plastic bricks, financed by the MSC Foundation.
Unfortunately, all around this brand new and freshly painted building, the schoolyard looks grey. Packages of school children's snacks litter the ground, and many objects should be placed in the rubbish bins. But there are no rubbish bins in the courtyard and even less green space. At playtime, the children play under a blazing sun in unhealthy conditions.
This is a complete break from UNICEF's vision for education: to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for every child. Beyond learning in classrooms made of recycled plastic bricks, UNICEF wants children and teachers to create and maintain a healthy and eco-friendly environment. This is the main objective of the "Green Initiatives" project.
"Mamie Faitai" is the fourth school to implement the "Green Initiatives" project, still in its pilot phase. "For this new green school, we thought of a solution with recycled objects. The rubbish bins and handwashing points, for example, were made from old plastic cans. In the vegetable garden, old car tyres were used for above-ground cultivation." According to Kherann Yao, 26 years old and coordinator of the Green Schools project for the NGO My Dream for Africa, the project's implementing partner.
The teachers at the school welcome the project to teach the children good environmental practices and give them a chance to touch the plants they are studying about. "It is gratifying for a child to feel responsible for a plant, to take care of it, and to observe its growth. These children are not used to taking care of plants at home because most of them don't have gardens at home."
With the "Green Initiatives" project, the right gestures are not only ecological, but they are also hygienic. Hand washing stations in the courtyard remind children to wash their hands regularly.
Diomandé Fanta Yasmine, 11 years old, admits: "Before, I didn't always wash my hands before eating. But today I've realised that it's essential to do it to fight against certain diseases".
The school's teachers have also been trained on environmental and hygiene issues. This approach involves the teaching staff to make this project sustainable.
Young U-Reporters from the commune also participated in implementing the "Green Initiatives" project at EPP Mamie Faitai. Together with the children, they helped plant the trees and put the seeds in the vegetable garden. They will return the following weeks to make sure that the children take good care of their plants.
"10 U-Reporters from our community will go to school every week to support the children and the teachers. We want to develop programmes with the students to care for the plants in this green school and help bring about this positive change in our community." Agnero Fabrice, U-Reporter from Yopougon, and his friends have committed to monitoring the project to ensure that it is working correctly.
UNICEF Côte d'Ivoire's objective is to create a real synergy between the "Green Schools" project and the schools made of recycled plastic bricks. But in the long term, the vision is to make all schools healthy and safe spaces where children are also educated about environmental protection.
In 2020, the combined effect of COVID-19 from March onwards and electoral tensions in September and October forced several activities linked to the project to come to a halt for numerous months (construction companies had to leave construction sites, plastic collection, manufacturing and plastic waste recycling were suspended. Monitoring missions were forbidden due to travel restrictions). Nevertheless, despite these constraints 64 classrooms were built. In addition to the COVID-19 epidemic challenge, supply chain of waste plastic should be improved with multi-partners involvement.