Promoting Jakarta green school and educational practice

Khairil Azhar, Jakarta | Thu, 05/27/2010 9:23 AM | Opinion A | A | A |  

We were a bit surprised when some students said “muna banget” (what hypocrisy) in response to the “Go Green” campaign launched by teachers that suggested we should turn off unused lights and air-conditioners. Coincidentally, there was the Jakarta Green School 2010 competition that our school has been nominated for.

To the principal, in a meeting, a friend and I related to the students’ “sarcastic” comments. We realized that they were right to a certain extent.

There is always hypocrisy when we deal with something idealistic: We know the urgencies and ideals but we tend to forget to make them a reality or consistently maintain and keep the good things running.

Before I was moved to the Jakarta branch of the school I work for, in some occasions of meeting the parents, there were usually questions such as: “Why aren’t there air-conditioners in the classrooms? My child has been accustomed to an air-conditioned room.”

Or, “School tuition is expensive, shouldn’t schools buy air-conditioners? Shouldn’t we provide more facilities?” And there are some other similar questions.

Simply put, as if there is criterion: A good school is one with air-conditioned rooms. A cool school is a school with modern electrical equipment that resembles five-star hotels.

The talk about academic achievement comes later. Morality comes third or fourth or possibly is not important.

Here, in the Jakarta branch, we use air-conditioners. I don’t know exactly what the reason is. But, thank God, most teachers realize that they are dealing with the morality or attitudes to nature. With modern appliances in hand, some questions come to our minds, “With those contributions to global warming, are the efforts to make the school green at least equivalent. Or do our green initiatives counter the destruction we cause with use of electricity, fuel and the like.

Some years ago, in a visit to my former school, an Islamic traditional one, I was shocked and sad. Later on, after I became a teacher, I became more disappointed and blamed the change. The main yard, where we used to play mini-soccer at recess time and after school hours, was now occupied by an arrogant storied big building. The trees around it were chopped down. There was only cement and stone buildings.

I tried to ask some ustadz (teachers) about the change. Even I possibly was impolite in doing it (I later realized). One of them said that the school was really in need of buildings with modern facilities.

Another one said that it was not appropriate to reject the donations submitted by the generous people who wanted to see their money manifested into something long-lasting that the heavenly reward would never cease to pour on them. The other one said, “What we did was meet the standards of a modern school”.

What does education actually mean? Why should the quality of education be associated with nice buildings or modern equipment, which I found in some schools are unused or rarely in use? Is the wish of the students to play as normal children out of concern that they do not deserve to have even some space to play?

How could we make sure that the students learn about nature and greenery if there is no exposure and examples? Aren’t the open spaces at a school providing the inhabitants better atmospheres to breathe and think?

Every time I see a Western movie, a school advertisement, or even an educational brochure there is a touch of jealousy. First, such as in England, many old educational buildings are preserved well and have open spaces. I am jealous when I see greenery and big trees in the schools’ yards in Denmark or Finland. Compare this to the green drought and dust in many state or private schools in Jakarta
Second, I am jealous that good schools overseas have good traditions related to their concern for nature. When many of our students here prefer to staying in an air-conditioned room, their counterparts in California hike or enjoy scouting activities around the hills or valleys.

There are some private schools, as far as I know, which also have good traditions related to nature in Jakarta. But the ratio is likely to be disproportional. Here, for sure, most students are educated with paper and pencil, and are not taught about the resources sacrificed for these tools.

The presence of the Jakarta Green School program is therefore raising an audacity of hope. No bureaucratization. The judges, as far as I have read in the mass media, work independently. They are fully aware of “the sudden green”, which is likely to occur in some schools for the sake of the trophies. They are looking for traditions and habits and examples.

That’s the reason why, despite the hope to win the competition, we should keep telling the students that we absolutely must prove that we are not hypocrites. Being green is a way to educate ourselves about the violations against nature as well as find out the possible ways to restore it with what we have.

Later on, we will be able to proudly tell our children that we are definitely not “muna” because being green has become truly an educational practice. Amen.

The presence of the Jakarta Green School program is therefore raising an audacity of hope.

The writer is a teacher in Jakarta.

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