By Natasha Kabanda
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a suspense question everyone gets to be asked growing up. Lower and upper primary school-going children, during career day at school often dress like medical doctors, lawyers, accountants, or pilots, rarely do they wish to be an ecologist, ranger, or field researcher. Could this be a reason why environmental problems are prevailing issues?
According to NASA, the planet is experiencing unprecedented environmental changes such as climate change, largely driven by human activities. This is influenced by many factors, including deforestation, pollution, and over-exploitation of natural resources threatening the balance of ecosystems. The consequences of these actions are felt globally, affecting not only the environment but also the well-being of countless wildlife species, including our well-being.
The world is rapidly changing, and the future of our planet rests in the hands of the next generation. As the stewards of tomorrow, it is imperative that young people are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and passion needed to address pressing environmental issues. WWF has identified the conservation of wildlife as one of the key areas demanding attention due to the notable decline of many wildlife species due to illegal wildlife trade. It further identified education as the most powerful tool for addressing environmental issues. This intervention would persuade learners to foster a sense of responsibility towards a sustainable future.
Since 1972, Zambia has focused on environmental education in public and private schools in the form of Chongololo and Chipembele Conservation Clubs. These clubs are run by Wildlife and Environmental Conservation of Zambia (WECSZ) through a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Education. This programme reaches over 40,000 children through more than 1000 clubs in 10 provinces and 116 districts of Zambia.
Many of Zambia’s leading conservationists and leaders in general were once members of these clubs. The late president Dr Kenneth Kaunda was the first patron in 1964 after Zambia gained its independence. This signifies the importance of addressing the emerging environmental issues that are now impacting our natural resources, ecosystems, and the well-being of future generations if not tackled.
To support this long-standing initiative, WCP Zambia, recently partnered with WECSZ through extending the Conservation Careers Fair to schools to inspire future conservationists in Zambia. An initiative by WCP to connect employers and employees in conservation. A total number of five schools have been visited since last year: the American International School of Lusaka (AISL), Lake Road PTA, Lusaka Boys, Rhodespark, and St Mary’s Secondary. Through this collaboration, club members have learned about endangered species in Zambia which include the elephant, pangolin, and white and black rhino. Specifically, learners from AISL decided to raise money for the pangolin rehabilitation centre run by WCP as their contribution to protecting these endangered wildlife species. This programme not only inspires and educates future conservationists but also highlights the diverse opportunities within the field of conservation. During the school visits, information is shared on where the learners can acquire the relevant qualifications for these unique careers. Seasoned conservationists from various fields are also invited to participate in the school visits to encourage aspiring conservationists.
Transforming conservation into a viable career path is not just a necessity for the future of our planet but a strategic investment in the well-being of ecosystems and biodiversity. Through a combination of education, practical experience, and partnerships, we can empower the next generation to embark on fulfilling and impactful careers in conservation. As we educate and inspire these future stewards of the environment, we pave the way for a sustainable and harmonious coexistence between humanity and the natural world.
Additionally, confronting diverse environmental challenges such as deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction, and climate change, the need for a new generation of passionate and informed conservationists has never been more critical. By integrating conservation education into the curriculum, leveraging collaboration, and promoting positive role models, we can cultivate a deep appreciation for the environment in the hearts and minds of the next generation. Together, we can ensure that young conservationists are well-equipped to secure a sustainable future.