Sharjah: Under the theme ‘We Grow a Forest at Our School’, the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) announced the launch of the ‘Al Ghaf, the Sustainable Tree’ initiative for the 2020 academic year in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Sharjah Private Education Authority. Participants will include 250 public and private schools in different emirates. The initiative is aimed at students in primary education,
the first and second stages, and secondary education. EPAA first launched the initiative for both public and private schools in 2015.
HE Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, EPAA Chairperson, said, “The objective of the Sustainable Tree initiative is to enhance students’ awareness of the importance of ghaf trees and the need to preserve these trees in the UAE. Goals include educating and introducing students to species of trees that live for a long time – particularly the ghaf, which is prevalent in the UAE – and encouraging a culture of environmental awareness among students. The ghaf has been beneficial to humans and animals in the past and it is still beneficial today. Ghaf trees are a national treasure.”
Mrs Al Suwaidi pointed out that the initiative reflects the vision and directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah is committed to conserving wilderness areas and to emphasising the community’s responsibility for preserving areas with wildlife and biodiversity. There is a need to encourage local agriculture, the conservation of perennial and annual plants, positive environmental action, and responsible recreation in wilderness areas, and to spread awareness about the
importance of the ghaf and its preservation in the local environment.
Requirements for the initiative include developing a weeklong plan for new, diverse and innovative interactive educational activities related to the ghaf with activities that are integrated into subjects in the curriculum such as Arabic, science, geography and English. In addition, one day a week will be dedicated to planting ghaf seedlings in the school garden. Participating schools that are able to do so are also expected to educate a community group outside the school. At the end of the week, each participating school is required to send the Department of Environmental Education at EPAA’s Biology Department a file with the plan and photos and short videos showing the activities.
The participating schools will be evaluated based on specific criteria, including the plan’s innovation and comprehensiveness in terms of time and number of students; communication with community groups; and awareness raised about the ghaf’s importance. The 7 best schools will be honoured at a special ceremony that will include displays featuring their activities and innovations. The schools will be presented with awards featuring ghaf trees, certificates of thanks and appreciation, and cash prizes. All participating schools and school officials responsible for implementing the initiative will receive certificates of thanks and appreciation.