Drive to restore Uganda’s forest cover kicks off in schools

Ministry of Education and Sports and UNDP flag off head teachers to start implementation of the Nehemiah Initiative, Greening Schools Project

April 14, 2023

Participants during the workshop

UNDP Uganda

Climate change is affecting millions of people across the globe. It is affecting different sectors, ecosystems and the society at large in form of floods, storms, prolonged drought and high temperatures. The education sector is not spared. School infrastructure has in some areas been destroyed, which affects learning, increases the spread of waterborne diseases and makes education objectives unattainable. 

It is against this background that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports, designed the “Nehemiah Initiative, Greening Schools Project. Launched in October 2022 by the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Hon. Janet Museveni, this project seeks to create environmental awareness and stewardship among learners and other education sector stakeholders, increase tree cover in schools and promote use of energy-efficient technologies in schools. 

Forty-nine seed secondary schools and one tertiary institution have been selected as the initial cohort. Cumulatively, this project seeks to support the greening of bare school land in 381 Seed Secondary Schools across the country through establishing boundary hedges/trees to secure schools’ land, provide shade, firewood, fruits, and establish wood-saving stoves.

To ensure the success of the project and safety of the trees, UNDP, the Ministry of Education and Sports and the Ministry of Water and Environment held a workshop that brought together head teachers, deputy head teachers and principals from the forty-nine seed secondary schools to orient and kick-start the project’s implementation.

Mr. Sam Kuloba, Commissioner for Government Secondary Education, Ministry of Education and Sports

UNDP Uganda/ Violet Namata

“The reason you are here is to flag you off to go plant trees in our schools. In a few years, the seed schools must be green,” Mr. Sam Kuloba, the Commissioner for Government Secondary Education, Ministry of Education and Sports, said during the Nehemiah Initiative, Greening Schools Project workshop.

As a measure to ensure sustainability of the project, Mr. Kuloba also urged head teachers to involve the whole school community including management, teachers, students and staff in project activities.

Mr. Daniel Omodo-McMondo, a Programme Analyst, Energy and Environment at UNDP

UNDP Uganda

Speaking on behalf of UNDP, Mr. Daniel Omodo-McMondo, a Programme Analyst, Energy and Environment, welcomed the initiative, saying it reinforces UNDP’s efforts in promoting climate-smart agriculture in schools in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Mr. Omodo said, “UNDP has supported up to 20 schools in Eastern Uganda to establish Environmental Clubs and four-acre gardens in each school. The schools have since produced maize, beans, vegetables and fruits, which has improved school outcomes, enhanced school feeding leading to increased completion and retention rates in schools, and reduced school dropouts.” 

Mr. Toshi Bwana, from Umoja Conservation Trust speaking during the workshop

UNDP Uganda

To sustain the project, Mr. Toshi Bwana, from Umoja Conservation Trust, urged the Ministry of Education and Sports to establish community nurseries which will have bamboo, jackfriut, trees, coffee, eucalyptus and candle nut trees, among others. 

“The nurseries of high-value trees will generate seedlings which will grow into trees, protect the environment, guard against encroachment and, above all, establish the National Secondary Schools Green Economy, which will become a source of side income for the teachers and will later turn into main income. This is critical for sustainable food production for the schools,” he said.

Voices of school head teachers

Ms. Janat Namujjuzi Kakumba, head teacher at Ssugu Secondary School, in Buikwe district, welcomed the project which he described as eye-opening on climate change information. Ms. Namujjuzi noted that with the new lower secondary curriculum where students are required to take some lessons outside the classrooms, the project comes in handy.

“We have a new lower secondary curriculum, where we teach students from outside to appreciate the environment; therefore, if such projects are taken to schools, we shall be the best people to educate the learners with both theory and practical skills.”

According to Mr. Samuel Ainebyona, head teacher, Mayanga Seed Secondary School, Mitooma, some of the challenges schools face include encroachment from neighbours who graze their animals within the school’s premises. “Therefore, the planted trees will act as boundaries and help us to conserve the environment and provide shade to the learners. We have also learnt that we shall plant fruit and woodlot trees that will provide fruits to learners and firewood to the schools respectively.”