UAE: School heads welcome announcement of calling 2023 the ‘Year of Sustainability’

Some institutions reveal initiatives and best practices being used to combat climate change


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Fri 20 Jan 2023, 8:07 PM

Last updated: Fri 20 Jan 2023, 8:11 PM

Head teachers highlight how students are already empowered to take charge of their future by combatting climate change as institutions provide a platform for them to learn, share and grow through a plethora of school programmes.

A variety of interesting initiatives provide narratives of different contexts and countries that offer a ‘kaleidoscopic view’ of the environment and the challenges it faces.

Helen Al Uzaizi, Director of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Social Impact, GEMS World Academy – Dubai says, “Sustainability is a prerequisite to doing business and living in today’s world. It is no longer an optional add-on, it needs to be intrinsically built into daily habits and practice. This applies to schools, companies and individuals alike. Today, sustainability is not a question of whether we recycle plastic bottles, it is all about our choices – our energy consumption, our retail choices, and our food choices. According to a recent article published by World Economic Forum [see here], 75 per cent of millennials and Gen-Zs would choose sustainable brands.”

Shedding light on some of the best practices, Al Uaizi adds, “Reducing our energy consumption has been at the forefront of our move towards becoming a fully sustainable school. We also continue to strive towards a zero-plastic and paper-free academy and have installed water dispensers/coolers throughout to reduce single-use plastics in school, alongside holding ongoing recycling drives. In addition, we were the first school in Dubai to sign the UNSDG Global Schools programme, which has allowed us to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into our curriculum at all levels, from KG up to Grade 12.”

Emma Shanahan, Principal, Aspen Heights British School, says, “In the buildup to COP 28, we welcome the announcement that His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has declared 2023 The Year of Sustainability. As an eco-school, rather than looking at sustainability as a separate entity, we believe it has such a high priority that it is taught both implicitly, and explicitly. We consider sustainability to be as important as personal and social development because it is critical for all our futures.

Teaching about sustainability is part of our moral duty as humans; caring for our planet is critical for all our futures. Children are taught about these important issues as we know it is the younger generation who will hold adults into account. They can positively influence and challenge adult behaviours, and they must! Scientists globally agree - countries must commit to lowering Co2 levels and act to become carbon neutral in order to try to reverse the impact of global warming.”

Principals also underline how from a young age, children are taught the importance of caring for the environment, recycling and re-using materials.

Schools reiterate how they are, especially committed to ensuring that their students understand the role in creating a more sustainable world

Mick Gernon, Regional Managing Director, International Schools Partnership – Middle East, said, “We do this by embedding the themes of sustainability in our curricula, and we provide several additional programmes where our students can actively do their part to promoting environmental sustainability. One of the International Learning Opportunities provided to all ISP students, the ISP Futures Programme, provides grants to each school’s eco club to spearhead a sustainability project this year. In addition, many of our schools have hydroponic farms, many uniforms are made from recycled materials, and our schools will have solar panels installed, further adding to ISP’s ESG mission. We are looking forward to the active engagement of the ISP community in the UAE in the nation's preparations to host COP 28.”

Asha Alexander, Principal GEMS Legacy School and Executive Leader - Climate Change, GEMS Education says, “Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. By virtue of Vision 2021, the UAE is already aiming to be sustainable in all ways by striving to diversify its income resources by moving away from oil. The UAE is constantly seeking to become a global hub and a successful model of the new green economy. In light of all this, this announcement of calling 2023 the ‘Year of Sustainability’ is indeed aptly timed as we as a community embrace a low-carbon lifestyle and make real differences for the planet and people."


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