Children are the inheritors of the future and inculcating in them the importance of conservation is the best way forward to a greener and better tomorrow. Rajani Vakkalanka shows the way.
“The right to life and survival is a child’s basic right. But with the unabashed degradation of our environment, exploitation of natural resources and the resulting hazardous climatic changes, are we providing our children this basic right?” asks Rajani Vakkalanka.
She’s addressed this pertinent question with a simple solution — empowering, through knowledge and awareness, the future custodians of Mother Earth — its children. Rajani began conducting conservation programmes for children in her colony four years ago. Since then, the enthusiastic youngsters of Ambience Fort, Hyderguda, have actively participated in learning and in turn teaching those within their circle of influence the relevance of water conservation, reducing carbon emissions and the use of plastic, tree planting and bird conservation with special emphasis on saving sparrows and other native birds in their neighbourhood integral to our biodiversity.
Rajani has a Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a specialisation in family and child welfare, and experience of working with mentally challenged children at Thakur Hari Prasad Institute in the city. She is also the city co-ordinator for children in difficult circumstances at Childline. In particular the youth has always remained a primary focus of Rajani’s work.
Her efforts to spread awareness have been appreciated by the colony’s residents and beyond. It even came to the attention of Mallikarjun Rao, Director of Nehru Zoological Park and the media, who’ve commended her work and helped spread her message.
Taking this association with nature a step further, Rajani is currently pursuing her PhD at Osmania University, faculty of education, in the area of environmental conservation through children’s participation. She explains, “I felt it would give me a larger platform to address schools and tap into children’s initiatives. There’s a lacuna in our education system due to a dearth of specialised training programmes for teachers to address climate change challenges in schools. A Supreme Court directive stipulates environmental education be made compulsory at all levels of education right from primary school. But it hasn’t been implemented to bring about a tangible difference to the present situation. That’s one area where I intend to start teacher-training programmes so they can effectively help address and involve students in conservation activities.”
She goes on to say, “When adults are more involved and take an initiative to support a cause, it’s easier to tap a child’s inquisitiveness. And when schools include project-based learning among children, it goes a long way in teaching them to relate to the significance of conservation and its importance.”
It’s a colossal task, changing the mindset of an overindulged generation conditioned to waste, but Rajani takes heart in some pleasant serendipitous affirmations of the future going green. Like the time she encounters an eco-conscious six-year-old refusing a plastic bag at a bookstore. Or when the colony kids bring her a wounded pigeon to be tended back to flight. She knows then that Mother Nature will be secure in the hands of these little guardians.