*As CSS Rumuorolu shines
* War against soot intensified
By Ignatius Chukwu
Club 17 Africa Initiative has concluded a 5-day training programme for secondary school clubs which were set up to groom agents in the war against soot.Community Secondary School Rumuorolu emerged champions on Day-5 with Ruth Onyiri shining like a star.
Secondary school children have been mobilized into the ongoing war against soot in the Niger Delta. Soot became a menace few years back with dark skies and heavily polluted air in the oil region. Black dusts settles on surfaces while the sky surges with smoky bubbles.
Now, most residents in the region especially Port Harcourt admit the air is getting clearer in recent times.
Mina Ogbanga PhD, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Network of NGOs in Rivers State, who is the Creative Director of Club 17 Africa Initiative, told BusinessDay in Port Harcourt the better air is a result of several actions being taken at different fronts from policy to forest invasion by security agents and support by local administrators.
She explained that the project is about addressing soot in Rivers State. “We are working with different arms of government; executive (all the commissioners agreed to be part of the solution), Ministry of Education will ensure that Climate Action is part of school curriculum in Civic Education.
“The Ministry will mass produce the manual. Ministry of Environment is part of the people that brought a huge reduction in soot. They are the policy drivers. So many Bills were brought about in the Parliament.”
Now, she said, students have been drafted into the ‘War Against Soot’. The expert who spoke at the end of Day 5 of the Climate Action training at the Marine Base area of the Garden City said what the lay man sees is that the air is cleaner, but it is because several groups are taking action.
“Young people are saying ‘no’ to be being used as agents for soot and illegal bunkering. That is what is happening at the background. Change is what people are seeing but it comes from different action-points, a business approach to sustainability issue.
“I want to say that Rivers Network of NGOs is an NGO that is managing this process. It is a conglomeration of all NGOs in Rivers State. Any NGO not yet a member is welcome to join. Our work is social justice, environment protection and human rights.”
Giving the background, the agile lady said Club 17 Africa is a club that focuses on climate change. She said it is a youth-driven club making young people to take responsibility on protection of environment and sustainability issues. “It is a scheme that is focused on building environment champions, environment leaders; and people who are going to support and promote a clean and healthy environment.”
She said the day’s action was on peer educators training which takes place after she had inaugurated them in schools under a teacher. “You educate them on what the project and club are about so they can go back to their schools to implement the scheme. We have succeeded in that training.
“As you witnessed, we treated all the areas for club management; governance, selection of leaders, advocacy planning (how to ask for something) how to ask for grants.’
Ogbanga said the project is supported by the European Union called CTS (Agents for Citizens Engagement) and that the scheme ensures that young people play major role in climate advocacy.
“It is a continuous training. The club is going to exist as a normal club, from year to year like other clubs in schools with their leadership structures.”
For Day 5, two schools, Niger Delta Science School (NDSS) and Community Secondary School (CSS) Rumuorolu, all in Port Harcourt, participated in the training to go back as advocate clubs in school for the protection of the environment and sustaining the war against soot.
She said Club 17 Africa operates in 40 countries under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with slogan: Living No One Behind. It has focus on economic growth, social inclusion, and human rights.
Resource persons said the issues are global but actions are local; impacts are local.
Ogbanga drilled the students on advocacy, running through basic introduction to advocacy. The students were taught to grasp what advocacy is; purpose of advocacy (to promote equality and social justice); principles of advocacy; examples of advocacy work; qualities of an advocate; how to draft an advocacy statement (stating the problem, demand for action, and the message).
Other areas include types of advocacy; the six components of advocacy; and the advocacy plan (get angry over an issue in the society, state the problem, state the action and who should take it, often the government, and state a striking message that rides the action plan.)
Community Secondary School (CSS) Rumuorolu emerged winners in the contest set for the day with Ruth Nkechinyere Onyiri emerging the best participant over all.Ogbanga said it is expected that the students and their schools would form the youth army against soot that would wage advocacy war amongst the body of youths in the oil region. They will be the ones telling their colleagues that destroying the environment would destroy everybody.
The future seems bright for the students who have been trained on advocacy and ways of doing things right. They would know more than others how to work hard and how to set priorities right.