By Nazrul Islam:
Sir Francis Bacon coined ‘knowledge’ as ‘power’ in his book Meditationes Sacrae and Human Philosophy in the late 16th century. It is, indeed, a term that would remain essential as long as the human civilisation exists. Another great man in the contemporary global history, Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid African leader, made it even louder and clearer in the dawn of the 21st century. In 2003, Mandela, in a speech delivered at the University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg of South Africa, put it in this way; “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” He described Mindset Network, a non for profit organisation which works for empowering community through education, as “powerful part of that world changing arsenal”.
No doubt, edification brings desired changes for a society. Therefore, it is important to use the “most powerful weapon” to bring changes in the people’s mindset on essential environmental issues. The target is to save the planet Earth as human interventions have constantly been causing harm to the nature. And proper education on environmental issues will definitely help make up the society with a responsible generation.
There are numerous initiatives across the globe to educate the people about their roles and responsibility towards the nature. But, somehow or other, a vast number of people are still out of reach of those programmes. The gap must be narrowed down.
Now is the time to equip the would be nation-builders, the students and young people, with that arsenal of knowledge. This investment, someday, will give a better dividend to keep the planet liveable. Bangladesh, by the side of the existing environmental awareness programme, must take up specialised education programme targeting the young generation since the young people (age 10-24) account for more than 30 per cent of the total 160 million population. And such programmes should rightly be implemented at the four levels of schooling (primary, secondary, higher secondary and tertiary).
The students, at the very beginning of their life, must be provided with information on the basics of the physical geographical aspects of the environment that includes soil, air and water. Other environmental issues like pollution and disasters, depletion of natural resources and loss of biodiversity among others could also be incorporated into their study.
According to Bangladesh’s National Nature Conservation Strategy (2016-2031) the ‘emerging’ issue of climate change has not been integrated into the national textbook. It is imperative that the issues are incorporate into those books now. Since three UN conventions covers almost everything related to environment, the government may improve the text books in the light of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. Global leaders from across the world agreed at a summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to have their national commitment to save the planet, and signed the conventions. These conventions are considered as the Rio Conventions.
The young generation, especially the students, can be taught the basic environmental issues through a number of means so that they uphold the values of the environmental education. The ways are as follows.
- Extracurricular activities
- Mainstream media:
Bangladesh, being one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of environmental degradation because of the global warming, has taken up multi-pronged approaches to address the issues related to environmental degradation. In line with the government approaches, the National Curriculum and Textbook Board has introduced a few matters related to society and environment among many other issues related to social etiquettes in the primary and secondary level.
The issues which threaten life and livelihood including impacts of climate change, air and water pollution, degradation of soil, depletion of biodiversity, deforestation are absent from the textbook. Incorporation of these issues will enhance the level of the students’ knowledge. School teachers, before they go for delivering lessons for the students, must know these issues properly.
Since the purpose of environmental education is to improve the quality of life and clarify concepts of environment, only school education is not enough to attain the goal. Awareness programme targeting youth and students must be undertaken by media that includes newspapers, televisions, radio and the most importantly social media.
All responsible media both the state-run and private must have programmes on environment and ecology designed for the youths. Hosting dialogues and arranging infotainment programmes on environmental issues in partnership with local and international aid agencies can also be effective for the youths. Drama and drama series that are being aired by the television and radio can disseminate messages that may create awareness among the people of different walks of life.
Schools and colleges across Bangladesh enrol a significant number of students every year. Beside, their academic lessons, they are engaged in many extracurricular activities. These educational institutes can arrange day-specific programmes like essay competitions on Earth Day, World Habitat Day, Schools Clean up Day, World Environment Day, World Oceans Day, World Earth Day, Water Day, International Day for conservation of Biological Diversity, Combating day for Desertification and Drought, World Food Day, National Bird Week etc.
National level school debates on these issues can also be arranged to promote the essence of the environmental protection. Groups of students could be engaged in tree plantation competitions, cleaning of their environment, keeping their homes and surroundings tidy etc.
Subject specific trainings from time to time can be arranged for the young people to make them aware. Those training can also lead them to think about build carrier in the field of environmental activism since those issues will remain in the discussion whatever the forms are for quite a long time.