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Schoolchildren from Male examine the bones and teeth of whales.
Photo: Chris Johnson

February 7, 2003
A School Visit in Male
  Real Audio Report

Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from Male in the Maldives.

The crew returned to port this week after completing our first research leg in Maldives waters. We were able to determine that sperm whales are present in abundance offshore.

Returning to port for a week to refuel and reprovision the boat has afforded us the opportunity to visit schools and talk with several hundred students. It is always great to come in from a research leg after having been with whales and share that experience with school children.

Yesterday, we spoke with several hundred children from Male English School. The students were given first hand experience in learning about and appreciating various elements of the waters of the Maldives, their whales and the world's oceans. The education sessions lasted well over the scheduled time of two hours due to the constant stream of thought provoking questions asked by the students.

Odyssey crew spoke about whales and the importance of minimizing human impacts on the marine environment.
Photo: Chris Johnson

From the perspective of a teacher, education days such as this are an inspiration. They are always rejuvenating after a long spell at sea and remind us that we have something of value to offer that may assist in shaping the attitudes of young people about the ocean environment. The enthusiastic, smiling faces of the students portrays hope for a fundamental change in the basic relationship between humanity and the oceans. This hope stems almost entirely from witnessing the passion in young people and their desire for knowledge. They demand to know what damage humanity is causing to the worlds oceans and its creatures, why it is happening and how they can help stop it. One young boy that was particularly impressive, vowed that he and his family would recycle plastic bags from now on and that he would talk with friends and family about what he had learned today. Such seemingly simple words from a young child is what keeps us going and reminds us that we have to remain positive and that there is hope for a bright future.

In my experience of talking with students around the world on the Voyage of the Odyssey, I have found that children are eager to learn about the oceans and discuss what they can do in their everyday lives to help this threatened ecosystem. However, they need information, encouragement and most importantly a sense that their actions count and they can make a difference.

It was not only the enthusiasm of these students that impressed us, it was also their commitment to learning. They were offered the opportunity to attend our presentation about whales and the Voyage of the Odyssey, the only stipulation being that they must attend the education session on a weekend - none refused the opportunity.

There are no pre-schools in the Maldives, but children begin to learn the Quran at special religious schools called 'maktab' from the age of three. There are government primary schools or 'madrasa' on every inhabited island, but many children must move away from home to the atoll capitol or Male to attend secondary school.

Genevieve always enjoys giving away posters of whales to kids.
Photo: Chris Johnson

The sea remains the source of almost all income in the Maldives, mainly through fisheries and from the tourists who flock here to dive on the magnificent coral reefs. Maldivians are traditionally excellent sailors and fisherman, plying among the islands of the archipelago and trading across to Sri Lanka and India. Everyone lives in close proximity to the sea, it is an integral part of their lives.

Last night, the crew left the port of Male on our second research leg. We are eager to meet with more students when we return to share our experiences with them once again.


Written by Genevieve Johnson

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