Renewable energy and preserving biodiversity inspired primary and secondary school students from across the South and North Eastern Education Districts who participated in the 2021 edition of the bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT) Schools’ Environmental Awareness Competition.
Participating students demonstrated their knowledge and understanding of these critical topics in the debate, art/poster and essay components of the bpTT-sponsored competition, which is endorsed by the Ministry of Education and has been managed by Mayaro-based environmental non-governmental organisation, The Black Deer Foundation since 2006.
The competition had added significance this year because it came a few weeks after the launch of bp’s Sustainability Frame which outlines how the company is pursuing sustainability through three broad areas: Getting to Net Zero, Improving People’s Lives and Care for the Planet. Since its inception, the competition has proven to be an effective way to give children a voice in the conversation on the environment.
Given the restrictions posed by the pandemic, this year the competition was hosted via a virtual platform where students participated using online technology. Artwork and essays were submitted via a web portal while schools debated against each other using online web-conferencing tools.
A small closing ceremony was hosted online where the feature address was delivered by Ronaldo Phillip, Forester III, Forestry Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. "I want to congratulate all of the participants for their outstanding work and I applaud bpTT and The Black Deer Foundation for facilitating this initiative. Our local biodiversity is diverse and we are blessed with abundant flora and fauna. However, these are under threat and what we need are ambassadors to protect our biodiversity and educate others. This competition is empowering emissaries of the environment and is uniting like-minded persons who will protect the planet. I urge all of you to keep up the great work," Phillip expounded.
The 2021 competition saw 17 schools take part in the various components, held under the theme of “Renewable Energy and Biodiversity”. The overall standard was at a high level and the judges had their hands full in using the online platform to assess the 70 essays, 46 pieces of art and the intensely researched debate presentations.
Matthew Pierre, community liaison coordinator, bpTT, commended the high quality of the competition: "I would like to praise the students, parents, teachers, principals and facilitators of this competition who adapted to the virtual space and maintained the excellence which we have come to expect. This initiative falls directly in line with our renewed focus on reimagining energy for people and our planet. These young people bring boundless energy and their ideas and passion will carry us to a better tomorrow where sustainability will be the foundation to improve people's lives and care for our planet."
The virtual ceremony was punctuated by special highlights including commendations from Zabeeda Hosein-Abid, School Supervisor III, Ministry of Education; remarks by educator and debate judge, Theophilus Nedd; as well as entertainment by spoken word artiste, Zakiya Gill and a performance of King Austin's 'Progress' by teacher Meguella Simon, who also acted in the role of essay judge.
In keeping with the pandemic restrictions, trophies and prizes were distributed to schools on July 9. It was an exciting moment for Suraiya Ramdeen, a student of Mafeking Government, who won in the 7 to 9 age category of the art competition. "I had a lot of fun and learnt a lot about our national biodiversity as well as renewable energy including solar and wind. It feels really good to be a winner and I want to keep on doing my part to protect the environment and keep Trinidad and Tobago beautiful."
Arvolon Wilson-Smith, founder and president of The Black Deer Foundation was thrilled by the overall success of the competition, which has entered the digital domain. "This pandemic has shown us that we need to be able to change and adapt to progress, and the success of this year's virtual competition is a tribute to that. This new portal can help this competition to grow and achieve its potential of reaching the national level. Every single attempt we see from students inspires us to work harder to give them a platform to display their brilliance and creativity. We are thankful for bpTT's steadfast support of this programme, and we look forward to even great participation and achievement going forward," Wilson-Smith explained.
Results of the 2021 bp Trinidad and Tobago Schools’ Environmental Awareness Competition:
7 to 9 Age Group Winner – Sajid Sooknanan, Libertville TML Primary School
10 to 12 Age Group Winner – Destiny Mansook, Mayaro (St. Thomas) RC Primary School
13 to 15 Age Group Winner – Ambika Ramoutar, St. Stephen's College
16 to 18 Age Group Winner – Shivanand Gangaram, Rio Claro West Secondary School
Primary Winner – Aaron Rampersad, Robert Village HHindu SDMS Primary School
Lower Secondary Winner – Xala Pacheco, SWAHA Hindu College
Upper Secondary Winner – Kelsey Ramlakhan, SWAHA Hindu College
First Place – Mayaro Secondary School
Second Place – SWAHA Hindu College
Third Place – Cowen Hamilton Secondary School
Fourth Place – Rio Claro West Secondary School