KOTA KINABALU: Stateless youths in Semporna learned the meaning and value of marine conservation through a series of classes at the Sabah East Coast district.
Held jointly by Reef Check Malaysia, Borneo Komrad and Green Semporna, the two-day lecture starting on June 7, covered topics on the ocean, coral reef ecosystem and turtle conservation.
The classes, which included field trips, were held at the Borneo Komrad Alternative School and involved stateless youths from Kampung Air and Kampung Bangau Bangau.
Soon, the classes will also cover topics like seagrass, mangrove ecosystem, and endangered animals, among others.
“They (the stateless youngsters) live very close to the ocean and it saddens me that they know almost nothing about what the ocean has to offer,” said Mukmin Nantang, the founder and one of the teachers in Borneo Komrad.
“These youngsters are underprivileged. They don’t have access to education in general.
“This class is to provide them with the knowledge so that they will appreciate what they have in their backyard and will not end up becoming one of those people that contributed to the destruction of the sea such as fish bombing, littering and overexploiting marine resources,” he added.
This is part of the Reef Check Malaysia community engagement and public awareness programme to include marginalised coastal and island communities to be part of the marine conservation initiatives.
More programmes with similar goals are expected to be conducted in the future to train and prepare the children and youth to be the marine stewards that will help protect the vulnerable marine ecosystem.
Reef Check Malaysia programme manager Adzmin Fatta said their goal to sustainably manage and conserve the coral reef ecosystem should always involve the coastal communities.
“This is regardless of their background as they are the primary casualty to the dangers that will happen with the loss of coral reef ecosystems such as depleting food sources, coastal erosion and climate change.
“With this knowledge, they can involve themselves with any marine conservation works around Semporna such as coral monitoring and restoration.
“At the very least, this knowledge will prepare them for the future of our ocean, for the better or for the worse,” he added.
In conjunction with World Oceans Day, the youngsters celebrated the day out in the field learning about sea turtle conservation with Bokko Kulapuan, a conservation group which is also spearheaded by the youths of Kulapuan Island.
Besides sharing their work, the marine conservation educators also took the youngsters to watch sea turtle nesting.
“I was so happy because this is my first time seeing the turtle laying their eggs,” said Siti Suhaimah Mustapha, 19, one of the participants enrolling with Borneo Komrad Alternative School.
“My friends and I also went snorkelling at the coral reef area to learn more about the corals.
“We had so much fun and at the same time learned a lot about marine conservation as well,” she added.