Raising children to be change makers

BY MARY OOMMEN –

Our Earth is most definitely struggling, and conversations have been going on for some time about what needs to be done to save our planet. However, time seems to be running out fast. The need of the hour is immediate and sustained action. The good news is that our younger generation is more informed and environmentally aware and are ready to take on the challenge of being the harbingers of change. Teenager Greta Thunberg’s “School strike for climate” protest drew an immediate response from children around the globe. The way she managed to gain the attention of politicians and policymakers worldwide has proved that young people can be influential change-makers.
However, raising children to become active citizens doesn’t happen by chance. So, what can we, as parents and teachers do to help them bring about change?
As parents, an important starting point would be to instil environmental values at a young age by being examples ourselves. From composting food, reusing clothes and reducing plastic waste to cleaning up beaches and tackling water waste – our actions can inspire children to live more responsibly. Children need to be conscious of how their actions affect the environment and learn ways to protect it.
Schools can further strengthen environmental awareness by helping students build knowledge and the skills necessary to address complex environmental issues and work towards ways to keep our environment healthy and sustainable for the future. Change that typically is nurtured at home, strengthened in the classroom and expanded to involve the entire school will eventually foster change in the community at large. In Oman, schools partner actively with organisations like the Environment Society of Oman, Shell and PDO, among others, to raise awareness among students and engage volunteers in different projects.
One such initiative was recently announced by the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) in partnership with Veolia Oman, a leading global and regional resource management company and Emily’s Garden, a memorial fund set up by the Jewitt family in memory of their late daughter Emily, who was passionate about the environment. Through ‘The Green School Initiative’, the Environment Society of Oman invited schools across the Sultanate to participate in a unique program that combines learning with hands-on experiences and promotes a conservation culture. It encourages a participatory approach involving students, teachers and the local community at large.
The Green School Initiative challenges students to engage in tackling environmental problems at a level where they can easily see tangible results, motivating them to realise that they really can make a difference. The initiative empowers participants to make informed decisions and actions on real sustainability concerns. Participating schools will be competing for honours in three different areas – the best school in waste management, the best school in water management and the best school in energy management. The Green School Initiative will be an excellent way for schools to create and implement a meaningful road-map towards improving their environmental footprint, a change which will eventually lead to a more sustainable, cost-effective and more responsible school environment.
Younger generations are already becoming more conscious about the issues that plague our world and programs like the one by the Environment Society of Oman will help school eco-systems to equip students with the skills to benefit local communities through action. Our young people have powerful potential and can help bring about much-needed change towards a healthier and better environment – all they need is our encouragement and partnership.