Education Program Aimed at School Children Raises Environmental Awareness

With the slogan “helping people to help themselves,” the IDEP Foundation’s TUNAS program is striving to instigate sustainable reform in Bali by developing children’s interest in environmental protection and conservation. TUNAS, which is an acronym for Teman Untuk Semesta (Friends of the Universe), started back in February this year and has two main themes: permaculture and disaster risk reduction.

Dewa Wira Utama, a field officer for the TUNAS program, believes that social ignorance stands at the core of Bali’s current environmental pollution problem. “Disasters such as floods and blockage of waterways due to plastic waste are considered as something that ordinarily happens every rainy season,” he says. “We are starting to see the result of this ignorance in how it is affecting our ocean biodiversity, where animals are suffering with waste lodged in their stomachs or even dying.”

The TUNAS program has been developed to counteract this so-called ignorance by reaching out to teachers and school children. According to Dewa, 22 elementary schools, from different districts and cities on the island, are currently involved in the program. “Our main target is students between 9 and 10 years old because at that age children are able to readily absorb information and enthusiastically implement it in their surroundings.”

TUNAS focuses on the issue of environmental protection by teaching children about the basic principles of permaculture, or permanent agriculture, as well as natural disaster preparedness. A valid undertaking in a country where, according to the World Bank, around 40 percent of the population are vulnerable to disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. “The program supports children’s interest in taking care of their environment through activities such as using recycled waste as planting medium. We teach them how to design their own school gardens and hope that in the future they will also design their own home gardens,” Dewa says. “Our second focus is disaster risk reduction where we teach the children how to recognize any potential dangers around them and how to evacuate during a disaster.”

The TUNAS program was inaugurated in February with a workshop for teachers, which was based on the information contained in IDEP’s Learnscape guidebook. The teachers have been encouraged to integrate the Learnscape material into their own curriculums with the aim of creating a sustainable and low-risk school environment. As the term permaculture is not yet popular on the island, the concept was explained in terms of the traditional Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which—just like permaculture—is based on the principles of caring for the earth, caring for human beings and sharing.

As a follow-up to the workshop, IDEP organized PERSAMI, a weekend camping event for students whose teachers have been involved in the program. The event, which took place at the Pondok Jaka in Sangeh, was held in collaboration with Scout Care. “For our Saturday and Sunday camping events, we pick students from the fourth and fifth grades, with each group consisting of five boys and five girls from each participating school,” Dewa says. “We hope that they will spread the knowledge they gain about permaculture and disaster readiness at their schools, homes and neighborhoods.”

During the event, students designed a School Alert Map that reflected their respective locations—for example, schools near the coast face the threat of a tsunami while schools in the highlands could face landslides—and learned about cultivating a school garden with nutritious food crops. The students also went on a hike, during which they learned about different plants and picked up trash that was later used in a recycling competition. The collected trash was also weighed to give the students an idea of how much untreated waste impacts the island. Towards the end of the event, the children were involved in disaster simulations, with valuable instructions conveyed through songs.

To help educate children, IDEP is also currently in the process of building eight ‘rechargeable wells’ at schools on the island as a part of the organization’s Bali Water Protection program. “The program aims to instill an awareness of the importance of water conservation in Bali,” Dewa says. “The rechargeable wells are all in strategic locations for recharging groundwater. The wells are built as a solution to preserving ground water, as well as its quality.”

IDEP will continue to support the schools involved in TUNAS until the program concludes in February next year. “We will keep encouraging and facilitating the implementation of the school gardens and alert maps that have been made by the students of each of the schools that participated in PERSAMI,” Dewa says. “We hope that the children will continue to implement the lessons they learn during TUNAS in their daily life for many years to come.”



By Anita


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