JET Responds to NRCA’s Comments on its Schools’ Environment Programme


An article by Kimone Thompson (one of the small group of excellent environmental reporters we have in Jamaica) in today’s Jamaica Observer (June 20) has raised several issues regarding the Jamaica Environment Trust’s (JET) Schools Environment Programme (SEP). Inexplicably, the article is not available online. I am quoting from the article here:

SEP’s annual budget hovers between J$12 million and $13 million. As main sponsor, the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) put up $9 million of that each year.

NRCA  Chairman Danville Walker told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the board is concerned about the effectiveness of the programme and in the absence of any monitoring and evaluation measures, is debating how the funds could be better spent.

“Members of the Board felt that the money could be better used for public education and weren’t really happy with the job that JET was doing in terms of public education. A number of us felt that it warrants a review. The question was, ‘Would we have a wider reach if we were to focus it in a more traditional way of public education, rather than just schools?’ and that’s what we’re debating,” he explained.

He conceded that imparting environmental values in schools is important, especially considering the scale of poor garbage disposal habits across the country, but he said it should be the responsibility of the Ministry of Education to execute in its diverse curricula.

A national campaign, the NRCA chair argued, would require more than $9 million, but it’s a move that the Board would consider.

“The schools’ programme is narrow,” he said. “It’s one of those things that is a nice thing to do, but it has to be more than a nice thing to do. What is the benefit? How do we measure the effect of the $9 million on students? There wasn’t anyone who could point to value for money.”

The NRCA chairman said no decision has yet been taken about alternate uses of the funds, but said that the review could result in a restoration of the support to SEP, but “with more guidance as to how to use it more effectively.”

I have several questions:

  • According to Ms. Thompson’s article, Mr. Walker seems to be suggesting, on the one hand, that this should be a matter for the Ministry of Education curriculum; and on the other, that it should be a (more costly) national public education campaign, similar to Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica perhaps. Well, which, Mr. Walker?
  • The SEP is not a public education programme, although Mr. Walker says the Board “weren’t really happy” with JET’s public education efforts. There is confusion here. SEP is a school-based project that includes professional development for teachers, teacher/student engagement on environmental issues, supervision by environmental education practitioners, the development of environmental clubs and environmental research. It takes a “whole school” approach.
  • Why was no explanation given of the reasons why funds were withdrawn, even after several requests for information?
  • If the NRCA Board was dissatisfied with the SEP, why was this not communicated before, at any time?
  • Why did NEPA commend JET for its work with the SEP on more than one occasion, both publicly and in writing, if there were problems?
  • Why was no external monitoring and evaluation requested by NRCA/NEPA?

So, mixed signals from the NRCA (and it appears a breakdown in communication along the way). It’s very unfortunate that things have turned out this way. I hope that proper consultations and discussions can take place and that something can be salvaged for this programme to continue. I would suggest sitting down at a table together and thrashing it out.

CEO of NEPA Peter Knight speaks at the SEP’s award ceremony in 2016. (My photo)

Below is JET’s press release dated June 20, 2018:

The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is rejecting statements made by Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Chairman Danville Walker in response to our announcement regarding the withdrawal of NRCA funds for the Schools’ Environment Programme (SEP).

The statement by Walker was carried in the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday, June 20. In his statement, Mr. Walker indicated that the NRCA board was not happy with the job that JET was doing in terms of public education and felt that the money (for SEP) could be better used. At no time was this position communicated to JET. In fact, JET sought clarification of the letter notifying us of NRCA’s withdrawal of SEP funding (attached) on several occasions, including by letter to Mr. Walker on April 16, 2018 (also attached) – to which JET has received no response.

To date, JET has fulfilled all its contractual obligations to NRCA under the SEP project, including successful delivery of all SEP components (workshops, school supervision visits, educational materials, and awards) and has submitted all quarterly reports on the projects progress on time. Each year since our partnership with NRCA began in 2012, representatives from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), who administers the NRCA grant, or the NRCA has been present at the annual SEP awards ceremony (including NEPA CEO Peter Knight and Mr.  Walker in 2016), and the agency has publicly commended the programme. This year, Anthony McKenzie, Director of Environmental Management and Conservation Division at NEPA represented the NRCA at the SEP awards on June 18 and applauded JET and the SEP schools for their work.

There has never been any indication from NRCA or NEPA that they were dissatisfied with the job that JET was doing delivering SEP, which was reaffirmed by their continued funding of the project over the last six years.

Chair of the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Danville Walker talks to CEO of JET Suzanne Stanley at the 2016 Schools Environment Programme awards ceremony. (My photo)

In 2016 JET met with NEPA to discuss ways in which SEP could be expanded beyond its current reach for the same budget. Both parties agreed that NEPA would facilitate delivering SEP in more schools by engaging its staff to conduct school supervision visits in 12 schools in the 2016/7 academic year. NEPA did not meet all its obligations under that arrangement and the approach was scrapped in the 2017/8 school year.

SEP, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, is the longest-running environmental education programme of its kind in Jamaica. SEP’s professional development workshops have given hundreds of Jamaican teachers the opportunity to expand their knowledge of environmental issues. The programme has inspired young environmental advocates and encouraged hundreds of successful environmental projects by schools in their local communities. SEP has been propelled by enthusiastic principal and teacher support, parental and community involvement and the support of several longstanding public and private sector donors. The programme was implemented in 39 schools in the 2017/18 academic year.

JET calls on the NRCA to clarify its position on SEP and retract its statement regarding the project’s performance.

Contact

Suzanne Stanley, CEO JET, 470-7580

Tamoy Singh Clarke, Programme Director JET, 469-1311

The winning team from Maryland All Age School in Hanover at the 2017 awards ceremony for the Schools Environment Programme. (My photo)

Here are the letters referred to in the press release:

Mr. Danville Walker
Chairman,
Natural Resources Conservation Authority c/o Jamaica Observer
40-42 1/2 Beechwood Ave,
Kingston

Dear Mr. Walker,

Re: Schools Environment Programme 2018/19

The Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) has been the major donor of the Jamaica EnvironmentTrust’s (JET’s) flagship environmental education project, the Schools’ Environment Programme (SEP) since 2012. With the support of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), who administer the NRCA grant, and several other corporate sponsors, JET successfully delivers SEP in 30 to 50 Jamaican schools across the island each year, impacting hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. It, therefore, came as quite a shock, when on March 21 this year we received the attached letter from NEPA which we interpreted to mean that NRCA will no longer be funding SEP going forward.

My efforts to seek clarification on the letter from NEPA have produced limited results. In a phone call on March 21, NEPA CEO Peter Knight acknowledged that the dates included in the letter (2017/18) were incorrect. He also acknowledged that the letter incorrectly stated that it was in response to a recent JET request for SEP funding, as no such request had been submitted. Mr. Knight did, however, state that despite these errors, the letter was still to be regarded by JET as notification that SEP will no longer be funded by NRCA in the 2018/19 academic year. I have requested a revised letter from NEPA to confirm this in writing on more than one occasion, but none has been forthcoming. Additionally, no reason has been given for the discontinuation of funding for SEP by NRCA/NEPA, and there has been no advisement on alternative sources of funding for SEP which could be pursued, government or otherwise. The approach taken by NEPA and NRCA in this matter is very disappointing, especially considering the professional manner in which JET has delivered SEP in partnership with the agency over the last six years.

SEP is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and is the longest-running environmental education project of its kind in Jamaican schools. JET considers SEP one of our most successful projects to date – with a results-oriented approach and impactful activities. We must adequately prepare our children for the world they will inherit. This requires a commitment to providing them with education and experiences which will help them tackle the environmental changes which they face in the future. It also means supporting our teachers as they engage their students on these environmental issues. SEP has successfully provided these experiences, education, and support for over two decades. It is a tried and tested programme, developed in partnership with several environmental stakeholders, and endorsed by the Ministry of Education as recently as 2014.

We request your urgent clarification of the letter sent to us by NEPA on March 21, and your reconsideration of the NRCA’s position on funding SEP going forward. I ask for the opportunity to meet with you and/or the NRCA board to discuss the matter at your earliest convenience. I can be contacted at 960-3693 or 470-7580.

Yours sincerely,

JAMAICA ENVIRONMENT TRUST

SUZANNE STANLEY
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Below is the original letter from NEPA:

Letter_re_Schools_Environment_Programme_2017_18_Suzanne_Stanley_JET_21_03_2018_

May Pen Primary School presents the results of its research project in 2017. (My photo)

 


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