STOCK Women and sustainability
Schools are being encourage to lead students to adopt eco-conscious activities in their daily lives. Image Credit: Shutterstock

ABU DHABI: Schools in the UAE are fostering a culture of environmentally friendly practices to prepare a sustainable-minded generation, thanks to a public initiative by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).

EAD on Tuesday announced that in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE), Emirates Schools Establishment, and the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), all schools in the emirate have now pledged to join its Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI), globally recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

To mark the occasion, ADEK hosted an event, the Private and Charter Schools Open Day, organised by EAD, to educate school principals and introduce them to SSI in a bid to encourage them to lead their students to adopt eco-conscious activities in their daily lives.

The Private and Charter Schools Open Day was organised as part of an ongoing effort to align the educational ecosystem with national priorities and raise awareness on environmental issues in the lead up towards COP28. During this, youth in their significant role as future leaders, will offer solutions to combat climate change.

For the first time in the global forum’s history, this year’s event will include an Education Pavilion, providing a platform for educating and inspiring the world about the UAE’s climate change education.

Ahmed Baharoon, Executive Director of Environment Information, Science Outreach Management Sector at EAD, said, “At EAD, we have been doing this for decades since the launch of our Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI) in 2009 where we had set a target of enlisting all schools in Abu Dhabi. Today, we have realised this ambitious goal, but it does not stop there. We have also set another target of having 700 schools from all across the UAE to join the Sustainable Schools Initiative by the end of this year and I am optimistic that we can achieve it.”

Baharoon gave a presentation on EAD’s SSI, which was recognised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2015 and declared an innovative model for education in sustainable development, and recommended that the initiative be applied all around the world.

He also announced that EAD will be hosting the 12th World Environmental Educational Congress, in January 2024 and he urged schools to submit applications for abstracts allowing them to share their knowledge and play a significant role at the congress.

Dr. Amna Al Dahak Al Shamsi, Assistant Undersecretary of the MoE for the Care and Building Capacity Sector, said, “At the Ministry of Education, we will exert all efforts to enhance the role of education in addressing the climate crisis and highlight the progress made by the UAE in the field of climate change. As such, we will develop environmentally friendly educational materials, curricula, and schools, and we will equip educators with the professional training they need to effectively impart knowledge and skills to students, who will capitalise on the learnings they will gain through education to build a prosperous future.”

Khuloud Al Dhaheri, Executive Director - Education Partnership Sector at ADEK, said, “Education is not just about imparting knowledge, but also about adopting values and skills that promote a better world. Sustainability, a core value engraved in the enduring legacy of Sheikh Zayed, is essential to secure a sustainable future for generations to come. As educators, we have a unique opportunity to model and promote sustainable practices and climate actions within our school community and beyond, inspiring our students to become environmentally conscious and responsible leaders of tomorrow.”

The open day concluded with a networking session that saw school principals impart their knowledge, share their experiences, and offer their creative ideas for implementing sustainability in UAE schools successfully with maximum impact.