Environment education should be the core of school curriculum: Wildlife filmmaker Rita Banerji

The Fourth Zamira Begum Rahman Memorial Lecture was delivered by noted wildlife filmmaker Rita Banerji on the topic “Environment Education in Schools” recently. Due to the unprecedented Covid 19 protocols, the event was held online on zoom. Zamira Begum Rahman was a teacher and a naturalist. The event was moderated by Nurul Laskar, PR practitioner.

Dr Dinesh Baishya, former principal, B Barooah College, Nayama Ahmed, Assistant jailor, Central Jail, Jorhat and Nakul Kurmi, headmaster of Sarupatgaon L. P. School were special guests on the occasion. Dr. Baishya fondly recalled his association with late Rahman, “She often asked me about the medicinal value of plants in her garden. She was a good teacher and a good mother. We need more women like her. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever met because I had always found her smiling inspite of all odds.”

The speaker, Rita Banerji is the founder – director of the Green Hub Project (A North East Network – Dusty Foot Initiative), which looks at leveraging the power of youth in conservation action and social change through the power of the visual medium. She has been one of the leading environment filmmakers in India, having been part of three Panda award winning films, also known as the Green Oscar at Wildscreen Festival. This includes ‘Shores of Silence – Whalesharks in India’ and ‘The Wild Meat Trail’ . Rita has been inducted as an Ashoka Fellow in 2019 . She is the recipient of National Geographic – CMS Prithvi Ratna Award for contribution to the environment through films and the RBS Earth Heroes award.

Rita Banerji spoke at length about how environment education can be incorporated in schools through eco clubs in schools. “These eco clubs can help make environmental education interesting. It’s amazing how children have a lot of knowledge about the environment and it would be wonderful if these can be incorporated in classrooms,” she said. Her project Green Hub attempts to involve the youth of northeast India in environment conservation through the medium of films. “We have managed to create an archive of films from different parts of the northeast. These films can be used to involve small children and the community in conservation across the region,” added Banerji.

She spoke about interesting initiatives like the summer farming school started by Northeast Network and Farm2Food. Change will come only when the environment becomes a part of us and a part of every subject in school. “For instance, the tree in the school campus can be used as a tool for each and every subject. The mathematics teacher can ask the students to measure the tree and discuss circumference, the science teacher can use the tree to talk about nutrition, sunlight etc, the language teacher can ask them to write a creative piece about the tree. We create a sustainable future for our children only if we can teach them to appreciate the environment around them,” said Banerji. She added that summer vacations can be used to orient children through field trips to farms, books, films.

The event was appreciated and attended by school teachers from all over Assam. Nurul Laskar said, “People like Rita Banerji are like lighthouses in a sea of troubled environment. Children, schools and teachers can learn from her.”