THE Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) last week hosted the award ceremony for its flagship environmental education initiative, the Schools' Environment Programme (SEP), for what could be the last time.
After 13 years, the initiative is expected to come to an inevitable end in August due to a lack of funding.
In 2010, the Ministry of Education reduced its budgetary support for the programme by $7.3 million, providing administrators JET with only $1.7 million of the usual $9 million — before withdrawing its support entirely.
As a result, JET had to significantly downsize the programme, catering to 30 schools instead of the usual 350, while scurrying to find the capital to keep going. The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica came to their aid, providing two years' worth of funding to the tune of $6.5 million.
However, that money has now run out, leaving JET with no choice but to stop the programme, which has, over the years, taught both teachers and students how to be good environmental stewards while putting in place workshops and competitions designed to promote and sustain eco-friendly initiatives.
"JET regrets that the programme will have to close because we think it's important that there are environmental education programmes in schools as it teaches students and teachers generally about taking care of the environment and why it is important," said project co-ordinator with JET, Tamoy Singh.
"We hope to get funding in the new year, but if we don't, we hope that schools will continue with the initiatives based on the programme we ran," she added.
Meanwhile, Wednesday's awards ceremony, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, saw students and teachers from schools across the island turning out to be recognised for their efforts at environmental preservation.
The 10 top schools set up booths displaying representation of their projects and activities over the last year. St Jago Cathedral Prep covered the impact of waste disposal in water while West Indies College Prep looked at deforestation.
Mar-Jam Prep looked at global climate change while Liberty Learning Centre focused on natural habitats, Holland High at recycling and Westwood High, on the preservation of the environment.
St Joseph's Prep looked at the effects of mining while Maryland All-Age addressed the importance of trees. Port Morant Primary and Junior High examined water conservation and Port Antonio High, solid waste management.
Maryland All-Age in Hanover emerged the junior champions while Port Antonio High copped the senior champions award.
The Jamaican Environment Action Awards were also presented to individuals and organisations who contribute to environmental protection and awareness.
The Trees for the Future Award was given to Mount St Joseph's Prep, while the award for energy conservation went to the Norman Manley International Airport. The water conservation prize went to the Ewarton Community Development Action Committee.
The Treasure Beach Turtle Group was awarded in the Biodiversity Conservation category while Brown's Town Community College was awarded for waste management.
A student of Port Antonio, Ikel Grant, was awarded in the Youth leadership category and the Jeffery Town Farmers' Association for community association.
The Port Antonio High School copped the Most Environmentally Aware award while Pansy Murphy of Port Morant Primary and Junior High and Heavon Brown from Port Antonio High were awarded as the Champion Environmental Teachers.
Chairman of Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation and director of the GraceKennedy Foundation James Moss-Solomon, in his keynote presentation, called attention to the pollution at the Kingston Harbour.
He said it is a sad reminder of how certain thoughtless and ignorant actions have caused the human race to regress, rather than progress.
"By our own ignorant and selfish acts, hundreds and thousands of Jamaicans have been robbed of a valuable water asset that provided recreation and cooling in an overcrowded and hot city," he said.
He blamed the condition of the harbour on improper waste/sewage disposal, plastic bags clogging fish-breeding grounds and outboard and inboard engines, pesticides and other chemicals dissolving in water and carried to sea, and the introduction of non-indigenous species with no local predators.
"These things represent the lack of importance with which we treat some of our greatest assets until it starts to affect our lives," he said.