USAID is helping schools lead a campaign to develop environmental awareness in schools and communities through student action projects.
Lack of environmental awareness is widespread in Kosovo with garbage littering picnic spots and the countryside, as well as town centers. In addition to posing environmental and health problems, this is severely impacting on Kosovo’s nascent tourist industry. USAID’s Basic Education Program is training teachers to change attitudes to environmental awareness at an early age.
As students from “Iliria” primary school, Pristina found, when they went to a nearby lake and beauty spot, the main problem is discarded plastic bottles. 8th grade students from the school made a film to highlight this problem using “Flip” video cameras provided by USAID.
“The most effective way of raising awareness among students is to get them involved.” – said Fadil Krasniqi, technology teacher at “Iliria” school. “They spread it at home, among friends, it becomes their project, therefore their responsibility, and not just something they were supposed to listen to while in class.”
USAID’s Basic Education Program asked teachers who had attended its courses to set their students a design challenge: to design a machine that would crush plastic bottle so they can be easily stored and transported to some of the small recycling plants being established in Kosovo, some with USAID assistance.
“The Design Challenge got us really involved. This was our opportunity to actually do something to help the situation. A lot of brainstorming and work went into building this…” explained Uran Tahiri, a 9th grade student from “Meto Bajraktari” school in Mitrovica as he proudly presented his team’s design of the bottle crusher. Uran was one of over 800 students who worked in design teams to produce original designs and prototypes for the Bottle Crusher and Recycle Bin.
On June 30th 2011, the winning designs from 17 schools were presented at an Exhibition held in the energy-efficient, Pristina Green School, build with USAID support. The event brought together 150 students, teachers, officials of the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Education, environmental NGO’s, local bottling companies, and recycling companies.
The event kicked off with a screening of the video made by students from Iliria’ school, followed by a performance from the Macedonian environmental NGO, OXO, who performed environmental songs with their mascot.
In a prize-awarding ceremony, “Flip” video cameras for the top five designs and a control technology kit for each participating school were presented by representatives of the Ministries of Education and Environment.
During the event a local manufacturing company expressed interest in adapting the best “bottle crusher” design for mass production, while a recently established recycling company committed to collecting crushed bottles from schools. A follow-up round table conference will be organized in September to plan a recycling system based on partnerships with ministries, municipalities, schools, NGOs and private business.
“These partnerships will allow for the roll out of the school-based initiative from learning to application … and finally to cleaner Kosovo towns and countryside.” said Xhavit Rexhaj, of the NGO, Kosovo Education Center.