III. EXISTING INSTITUTIONS AND MEASURES FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS INTO DEVELOPMENT PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING FOR SUVA CITY
H. Economic incentives and the urban environment
In developing public awareness of environmental issues, Fiji has the advantage of having high education participation rates (over 98 per cent for children aged between 6 and 11 years). The adult literacy rate is 85 per cent, which is one of the highest in the South Pacific region. Urban education participation levels and literacy levels are even higher. The school curricula were recently changed to contain issues on the environment, and an Environmental Education Unit was set up within the Ministry of Education to support the change. However, environmental issues are not taught as a separate subject. The content of environmental education in Fiji school curricula is distributed throughout the various subjects. Aspects of environmental issues have long been part of traditional school subjects like geography, biology, physics, chemistry, and agricultural science. Many of those elements, however, have been taught as essential core subject material. It is only relatively recently, given the increasing international publicity given to the threats to the global environment, that the national education system has deemed it essential to include important elements of environmental education in the curricula.
In terms of non-formal education, the Department of the Environment runs a number of small public awareness and education programmes, which include weekly children's segments in the newspaper and the distribution of pamphlets on the environment.
An Environmental Education Unit in the Department of Forestry was created in 1975. The goal of the unit is to develop a keen awareness, appreciation and understanding of forests and their interrelationships with people. The main project of the unit is an annual Arbor Week celebration. Arbor Week has developed into a successful national event with wide community participation, including tree planting programmes in schools. The success of Arbor Week is reflective of underlying community interest in environmental issues.
With regard to NGO participation in education in Fiji, previously only the National Trust of Fiji was involved, by having its mobile unit visit schools between 1982 and 1988. SPACHEE runs a popular weekly radio programme on environmental issues. However, since it is an English-language station the audience is mainly confined to a limited number of urban listeners.
One of the constraints on environmental education in Fiji is that environmental education is not taught by subject matter specialists. Some of the problems in formal environmental education may appear superficial, especially as teachers have little experience of their gravity and magnitude. Thus the investigation of a problem may involve personal values with which teachers may not feel too comfortable. Further, desired attitudes will be easier to develop if problems are of such nature and magnitude that teachers and pupils alike feel personally involved in their solution. A training and retraining programme is therefore needed for environmental education teachers.
Financial and staffing problems are ongoing constraints in developing environmental education. There has been an overall lack of recognition in the Education Department itself as to the value of its Environmental Unit. There is a lack of continuous and close liaison with relevant bodies such as the Ministry of Education, the Curriculum Development Unit, the Department of the Environment, and relevant NGOs such as SPACHEE and the National Trust of Fiji. Each tend to work on their own, with whatever minimal resources are available to each. More could be achieved if their resources were "pooled" and a close liaison maintained with existing bodies that have environmental education interests.
Generally, public awareness programmes can be very effective in promoting sustainable development, provided that they are held on a regular basis. It has been suggested that the public in Fiji is aware of environmental problems, but that there is an inability to articulate concerns and an unwillingness and inability to act on them. A start to resolving the problem could be made by the government and NGOs jointly launching a nation-wide sensitizing programme. The promulgation of the Sustainable Development Act would provide the ideal focus for such a programme.