Uganda: Spreading environmental awareness among refugees
13 June 2011

Many African cities are plagued by huge amounts of waste. During a recent workshop refugees in Kampala learnt more about environmental issues. (Reuters)
The use of plastic bags, commonly known as kaveeras, was the biggest concern for students, some of whom come from Rwanda, a country where plastic bags have been banned for years.
Kampala, 13 June 2011 – Forty refugees and asylum seekers had the opportunity to learn more about environmental protection during an information session organised by JRS on the occasion of the UN Environmental Day, celebrated on June 5.

"Since the effects of climate change become more and more noticeable, particularly in Africa, we came up with an interactive session on environmental issues," explained Stephen Kuteesa, JRS Project Director of the urban programme in Kampala. 

After an initial assessment of the students' knowledge on the topic, they were introduced to a broader understanding and new aspects of environmental protection. Most of them associated environmental knowledge only with trees and plants. The workshop also raised awareness about other aspects, such as power, water and waste disposal

Learning how to protect the environment

The session concluded with recommendations how to protect the environment, such as saving power, drawn from every day life in the Ugandan capital. The use of plastic bags, commonly known as kaveeras, was the biggest concern for students, some of whom come from Rwanda, a country where plastic bags have been banned for years. Planting and caring for flowers and trees was another key issue in the discussions. As a first step towards increased action, the group decided to plant a tree on the JRS compound.

The participants, who are all attending the JRS English language class, listened attentively and raised many questions. "There is so much rubbish lying around the streets of Kampala. Is it okay to just burn it?" asked Chantal Mubalama, a young refugee women from the Democratic Republic of Congo, thus provoking a discussion about waste management. 

Participants discovered that there are various ways to make use of items considered waste. For instance, plastic bottles and bags or paper can be used again while other waste can be separated or recycled. Instead of throwing waste on the streets, it can be taken to collection points which exist in almost every neighbourhood in Kampala.

Since May 2011, JRS Kampala has introduced short information sessions on various topics for its beneficiaries, mainly from its English language class. "The aim is to spread knowledge that goes beyond English language skills," said JRS English teacher, Sr Hellen Tabea. 

A previous session on child rights was equally well attended. "We feel encouraged by the students' active participation and are already in the process of developing further topics," said Mr. Kuteesa.





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Angelika Mendes
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