It was a celebration of success with a spotlight on the environment as the bp Trinidad and Tobago (bpTT) Schools’ Environmental Awareness Competition was brought to an exciting close with a prizegiving function at the Mayaro Resource Centre last Friday (1st July).
For Rio Claro West Secondary School Lower Six student and art winner in the 16-18 age category, Shivanand Gangaram, this competition is a pathway to his future aspirations. “I’ve participated in this competition since I was in Standard Five and I’ve grown in terms of my ability to create art and express my passion for preserving the environment. Ultimately, I want to build a career in art and creative expression, and my success in this competition has inspired me to work hard to achieve my dreams. I wish that every student in the country could participate and get the chance to learn and become as inspired as I have been.”
Like Shivanand, dozens of primary and secondary students from across the North and South-Eastern Education Districts showed off their knowledge on ‘Using Technology to Mitigate Climate Change’ in the debate, art/poster and essay components of the bpTT-sponsored competition. The competition is endorsed by the Ministry of Education and has been managed by Mayaro-based environmental non-governmental organisation, the Black Deer Foundation for the past 16 years.
According to Annisha Hosein, Curriculum Science Coordinator, Ministry of Education, “This competition encapsulates our focus on developing long-term relationships with partners like bpTT and the Black Deer Foundation. It caters to the interdisciplinary integration for curriculum integration in addition to being aligned with national and international goals and policies such as Vision 2030 and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. I want to congratulate everyone who participated in making this a success and you all are helping to create sustainability through environmental awareness.”
This year’s competition saw a return to face-to-face interaction, having been hosted on a virtual platform last year due to pandemic restrictions. 21 schools participated and the overall standard was high, giving judges a tough job in assessing the 67 essays, 95 artwork pieces and the intensely researched debate presentations.
The structure of the competition compliments bpTT’s Sustainability Frame, which outlines how the company is pursuing sustainability through getting to net zero, improving people’s lives and care for the planet.
Ryan Chaitram, bpTT’s communications and advocacy manager, inspired the students to continue their work as environmental ambassadors: “It is said that we borrow the earth from our children, and I think we all feel the essence of this today. It’s wonderful to see young people take charge of the future and articulate with creativity, innovation and self-expression. Education and the environment are core to our corporate social responsibility directives, and this competition melds them seamlessly. It has remained relevant for the past 16 years and as far as I am concerned, everyone who participates is a winner. Congratulations to everyone who was involved and keep up the great work in bringing awareness to the environment.”
The closing ceremony was punctuated by special highlights including remarks by UK-based judge and international consultant, Jenelle Ross McIntyre; as well as a pre-recorded piece by spoken word artiste, Zakiya Gill and an inspired performance of King Austin's 'Progress' by teacher Meguella Simon, who also acted in the role of essay and debate judge.
It was a poignant moment for Arvolon Wilson-Smith, founder and president of The Black Deer Foundation, “This was started in 2006 to give students a platform to express their views on environmental issues while developing solutions for a better world. Over the years, I’ve witnessed the transformation of students and communities and the success stories are endless. The Ministry of Education help make this possible; the principals, teachers and parents give full assistance; and bpTT provides support in immeasurable ways. At the end of the day, this collaboration has served to unlock the greatness in our young people and our nation is better because of it.”