Environmental education in the Seychelles

The Seychelles has a well-developed education system, with 24 State primary schools and 10 State secondary schools across the three main islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue (there are also three private schools on Mahé and one on Praslin). Education is compulsory between the ages of six and 16, with six years at primary school (P1–P6) followed by five years at secondary school (S1–S5). Students undertake Cambridge O-level examinations in years S4 and S5.

Schooling may continue after secondary school at further education and vocational institutions such as the Maritime Training Centre, the School of Advanced Level Studies (SALS), the Seychelles Hospitality and Tourism Training College and the Farmers Training Centre (Ministry of Education). Until the opening of the University of Seychelles in 2009, higher education had been limited to studying overseas. Since 2012 the university has offered a BSc in environmental science.

The need for environmental education is increasing all the time around the globe, as our natural resources are coming under increasing pressure. Leaders need to be equipped for tomorrow’s challenges; equally, we must prepare our children adequately for the future they will inherit. In order to achieve this, there must be a commitment to providing children with environmental education and enabling the next generation of conservation leaders to develop.

As technology is used increasingly around the world, more children are becoming disconnected from nature. Environmental education reintroduces them to the natural world and teaches children and adults alike to care for their environment, which subsequently increases conservation efforts throughout their country. Studies have shown that environmental education can encourage the younger generation to pursue careers in conservation.

The Seychelles is a country of outstanding biodiversity and relies heavily on its marine resources, with tourism and fisheries being the main economic activities. It is a country that comprises more than 99% water, yet its marine resources face serious depletion due to a lack of public awareness and sustainable development. There needs to be a main channel to change behaviour, mitigate problems and create a sustainable future. This can be achieved through environmental education.

At primary and secondary schools in the Seychelles, environmental education is taught across the curriculum in order to reinforce a holistic understanding of the environment and problems relating to it, and in 2000 the Environmental Education Unit at the Ministry of Education was established in order to ensure that the subject is taught in all schools. Each school now has an environment leader, who oversees its environmental education programme. The leaders also encourage students to participate in activities relating to the eco-school programme.

The eco-school programme was set up in 1994 as an annual competition to promote the improvement of school surroundings and make them more environmentally friendly. The top prize for winning schools is a trip to Aldabra, a world heritage site managed by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF). Since the trips began in 1999, more than 100 Seychellois students have had the opportunity to visit the pristine environment of Aldabra.

Non-government organisations (NGOs) play a huge role in the education of Seychellois students in environmental issues. In 1994 the Wildlife Club of Seychelles was set up to provide opportunities for young people to learn about the country’s environment through extracurricular activities. It is responsible for successfully raising awareness among young people of terrestrial conservation issues. Each primary and secondary school in Seychelles has a Wildlife Club.

Environmental NGOs often incorporate community education and awareness into individual projects they undertake. The Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF) has had a presence in environmental education in the Seychelles since 2010, funding several marine education and awareness projects.

The Ministry of Education has stated that much can still be done to create an environmentally conscious generation. It recognises that the undertaking to ensure that young Seychellois obtain the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to safeguard the diversity and natural beauty of their unique country is a long-term process.

The SOSF Island School Seychelles (SOSF–ISS) works closely with the Environmental Education Unit at the Ministry of Education and is sincerely grateful for its support. SOSF–ISS endeavours to continue its efforts to provide quality marine environmental learning for the young people of the Seychelles and to create marine ambassadors who will embrace the country’s exceptional marine environment and be compelled to protect it.