Two weeks I went to a hui of environmental educators working with the Enviroschools programme throughout the country. They were so vibrant and so excited about their ever expanding programmes throughout kura kaupapa and many other schools throughout Aotaeraoa. They were also focused on their “regeneration” project which involves students who have left school but are really keen to continue the work of environmental mentoring and education with younger people.
At present 675 schools are Enviroschools and the programmes cater for 210,000 children. Enviroschools told me about their long waiting lists of schools wanting to join the Enviroschools programme and their international success. Enviroschools have been mentoring the development of similar programmes and other “P4” countries notably Chile.
The Enviroschools kaupapa is so much more than planting carrots outside the school library or cleaning up the local stream. The Matauranga Taiao approach is an educational philosophy based on an indigenous understanding of sustainability and of learning. Enviroschools is about children as leaders in critical thinking around sustaining the environmental and the community. It works with the leadership and passion of children and young people supported by Education for Sustainability (EFS) advisers and Enviroschools coordinators and teachers. I was initially concerned that Enviroschools might be constrained to a narrow definition of environmental thinking but having met the core team I am reassured.
The work of Enviroschools is deep and wide and holistic and it based on excellent reflective educational practices. The National Government has completely cut the funding for EFS advisers and has given Enviroschools six months to develop a plan for their ongoing funding. Enviroschools do have the involvement of Regional Councils and other partners but without core support from the central government things look tough.
In 2002 the Greens succeeded in a Budget bid to Labour which established the EFS advisers. In 2006 we managed to negotiate $30 million for the Enviroschools project based on the work of the EFS people and many passionate teachers and parents. Enviroschools are a Green flagship policy for good reason and we will continue to try and find ways to keep them going. This aspect of our children’s learning is so vital to everyone’s survival.
We are surprised at the sheer stupidity of this Budget cut.