Africa’s wildlife needs young naturalists

Counties Editor's Pick Environment Taita Taveta

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is championing a proactive education project that brings on-board children into the boat of conservation through an initiative dubbed ‘Classroom Africa’.

The initiative targets school-going children in the age brackets of 7 to 17 years, an age group that forms a significant portion of the African population.

“Children are the future guardians of the earth, and one day it will be their responsibility to protect and conserve the planet as home to humans and the wondrous wildlife,” said Margaret Mereyan, AWF conservation educationist.

Youth and children stand to receive the baton of being the next generation of leaders and custodians of the earth and its limited resources. It is them who stand to lose the most if the climate change wheel is left to keep turning at the same pace it is turning now, notes Mereyan.

And how best to induct the young minds into conservation than integrating environmental responsibility into the school curriculums at an early stage.

Classroom Africa, a brainchild of AWF is present in 17 African countries, Kenya being one of them that will see conservation integrated into the school curriculum among other things to inspire conservation through education among children.

“We want to have the African Children in the forefront of conservation by initiating them into education that informs attitude and behavioral change and uproots the notion that conservation is a white man’s narrative. Our children need to know the truth, and the truth is that Mother Nature is bleeding and needs protection through conservation from the village level,” added Mereyan.

From a biblical point of view, humans are default conservationists as per Bible’s Genesis chapter one. With man commanded to take over the world and use it as he would, such is a high calling to every individual on earth. But that responsibility comes with a massive burden to use and conserve the environment and natural resources.

“Children are the largest stakeholders of how the earth progresses now and onwards. When climate change takes away the beauty and resources of the earth, it is them who will grapple with the consequences. They need to be part of the process of conservation from a very tender age. It is only then that we can nurture a generation that is well-versed with the needs of the environment and champions for its protection and conservation,” said Mereyan.

At the national level, the conservation agenda has been supported through proactive legislation and targeted funding for micro and small-scale environmental protection to build climate-smart and resilient communities.

In December 2021 during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Nairobi National Park, President Uhuru Kenyatta was on the record challenging stakeholders led by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to be innovative in their conservation efforts.

The President emphasized that such innovations should be in sync with the shifting socio-economic and environmental realities characterized by the ballooning human population and climate change.

“We need to really think out of the box on how we will do it and ensure that future generations can live side by side with nature and with our wildlife as we have done,” the President said.

The Kenyan government has been committed to the preservation and conservation of the country’s heritage by tasking the current generation to act responsibly to the environment and be able to hand over the resources to the future generation.

Initiatives like Classroom Africa are one way to fly the flag of conservation throughout the African continent and the globe and more so to children who stand to lose the most if the current rate of environmental degradation continues unabated.

By Arnold Linga Masila

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