Josh Oyiki, a third year student from Athlone Community College and Nicholas Kirby, a fourth class student from Scoil Realt na Mara, Kerry were chosen as the winners of the inaugural Green-Schools Clean Air Week Poetry Competition. Their poems, Differing Similarity and A Thought and Feeling, were chosen by judge Sasha Terfous from a pool of over 1,000 entries to the competition.

Organised by the Green-Schools Travel programme, Clean Air Week focused on raising awareness of, and taking action on, air pollution in and around the school gate. This year a poetry competition was added to the week’s celebrations, to allow students to think creatively about their journey to school.

In the past 12 months, many people got the chance to experience how their communities could benefit from improved air quality. During Clean Air Week in November 2020, Green-Schools asked schools to learn about how car journeys impact air quality and how air quality at the school gate can be improved when more students and teachers walk or cycle to school.

A survey conducted by the GLOBE programme in partnership with Green-Schools Travel found that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels were higher for schools situated in major towns and cities when compared to schools located in rural areas. The main source of NO2 in Ireland is from road transport and journeys to school by car are contributing to poor air quality.

‘My Promise’

For Clean Air Week 2020, Green-Schools commissioned spoken word artist Sasha Terfous to celebrate the work of students and schools and to inspire entries to the inaugural Clean Air Week Poetry Competition. Sasha’s work, My Promise is now available on the Green-Schools website and social media channels to motivate students around Ireland as they contemplate how air quality impacts their lives and its greater environmental implications. Sasha also judged the entries to the poetry competition.

A Thought and Feeling, by Nicholas Kirby, 4th Class, Scoil Realt na Mara, Tuosist, Killarney, Co Kerry.          

When I rode to School one day,

A thought and feeling came my way.

I thought of what the world would be,

With only renewable energy.

I saw how our planet and our sea,

Is being polluted carelessly.

I heard the zooming cars go by,

And heaved a long and heavy sigh.

I imagined that the trees could speak,

What they’d say and how they’d weep.

I smelt the air and felt the shame,

I knew the humans were to blame.

We’re losing our future,

We’re giving it away.

But let’s not lose hope,

That’s not our way.

Differing Similarity, Josh Oyiki, 3rd Year, Athlone Community College

Two sycamore seeds soaring through the air,

one lost in the wind, found in despair,

one steadfast, mighty, galloping as a horse,

found fortune and luck ridden in his course.

Lost in the world with nowhere to go,

All on his own, tos-sed and thrown,

“Good things come in time” a fib he told

himself patiently waiting, twisting and turning.

Struggling when gliding, frowning while moaning.

The savage storms and vicious winds traversed,

until all hope was lost and landed, him cursed.

In dretched marsh, drowning and dying

In a deathbed of mud, doleful we mourn,

A pitiful sight of which we scorn.

Poor sycamore seed could’ve been so much more

A plight so forced unable to take flight,

of what could have been; this wrong not right.

Rich sycamore seed will thrive be grand, be strong,

Be tall a tree who will have faced nothing wrong

Of a wealth so fortunate; a life gotten by chance,

knew not of strife, ignorant in his stance.

Poor sycamore seed woke up revived

Of renewing winds marvelous in his eyes,

Poor too became rich, now landed graciously

For now known to him was a life extr’ordin’ry.

We see two paths: one straight, one crooked

Outwardly similar, differing in nature.

Listen to Josh read his poem below