By GASIN Reporter
Over the years, a number of efforts are being made by civil societies in addressing the lingering environmental degradation in the Niger Delta. Among other impacts of oil and gas exploitation in the area, the impacts on environment are still very alarming, especially in the local communities that host oil and gas facilities. Most of the operations of the companies are not in regulated agreements with international standards. As a result, a number of facilities have become old, making accidents very imminent.
Awareness on health, safety and Environmental impacts accompanying oil and gas operations in the host communities have been created by a number of civil society organizations in the Niger Delta. Most, if not all of the awareness creation have been focused on adults and youths who have already graduated from high/secondary schools. Children in the secondary schools have not been extensively covered in the awareness. The children at this age group have a great influence on the communities. Most of them go to farms with their parents, and are equally impacted by pollutions the same way the adults are.
Recognizing the need to involve students, GASIN launched a school club called Gas Alert Club in four (4) secondary schools, as part of a project, Gas Alert System, which was funded by Cordaid. The schools are Community Secondary School Obrikom, Community Secondary School Mgbede, Egbema Grammar School Okwuizi and Community Secondary School Aggah. The initiative has not only been applauded by the Post-Primary School Management Board, regulatory agencies and community members but has been seen as a ground-breaking initiative that will ensure awareness is effectively sustained at the community levels.
Information dissemination is at its peak when it spreads bottom-up the communities, i.e. from the secondary schools students to parents and relations. Many intellectuals have seen the initiative as a catch-them-young campaign. For instance, third-party interference with facilities can be addressed by targeting awareness to secondary school students, some of whom will graduate from school and become adult members of the communities. Stakeholders, including the government regulatory agencies, have recommended expansion of the club to as many schools as possible and even to universities.
Due to funding constraints, GASIN could only support four (4) schools in the formation and running of this club. The club features include trainings, seminars, workshops, quiz and essay competitions and other presentations. The objectives of the club it to sensitize children on environmental, health and other social issues associated with oil and gas exploration, but since GASIN is focused on gas, we pay much attention to issues of gas exploitation. The four clubs, so far, have been trained using resource persons drawn from both GASIN and regulatory agencies. Quiz competitions, essay competitions, presentations, etc have been organized for the clubs.
The children have remained excited and committed towards club activities while deriving huge capacity building benefits from the events and activities of the club. School heads have equally remained thankful and collaborative in an effort to sensitize students.