By Nigel M. Nassar
Take it or leave it, Uganda’s children are picking up a rather interesting wave of environmental enlightenment, and it is happening pretty fast. This stood bare at Uganda’s first ever International Climate Change Conference for Children, held last Saturday at Gems Cambridge International School in Mutungo. An initiative of Uganda’s Little Hands Go Green, the same force behind the now popular annual green festival, the conference aimed at giving children a platform to discuss whatever they understood about climate.
They did, and they shocked us, exuding tremendous know-how about climate change and environment as a whole. In all, 35 countries were represented. The schools in attendance including Mirembe Junior, Namuwongo; Kisuule Primary School, Bukoto; Gayaza Junior, Gems Cambridge International, City Parents School, Green Hill Academy, Hillside Naalya, Entebbe Junior and Uganda School for the Deaf, Ntinda.
Gayaza Junior pupils share their knowledge on climate change
The child delegates, in their comedy skits, PowerPoint presentations, songs, poems and the like, highlighted the causes of climate change, its effects and solutions – not only here, but worldwide. In their own style, they made some really serious homeruns, at some point asking some really bothering rhetorical questions.
One of the outstanding performances was by the School for the Deaf Ntinda, who did a drama about a piece of land inhabited by a careless lot that dries wetlands, cuts down trees without replacing them – all sorts of environmental crimes. It was so well done that we didn’t need the interpreter when it came to the consequences – landslides, no rains to support their crops, hunger and famine, name it.
Hillside Primary School pupils arrive for the conference
Kampala Quality's Power Point presentation that portrayed the world as one big barbecuing furnace about to cook us alive was another interesting one. Basically, the children outdid themselves, and their presentations hinged on their private research and day-today observations, as opposed to class work because environmental conservation is yet to pick up priority status in our schools.
Chief guest Flavia Munaaba, the state minister for environment, was so impressed that in her speech, she encouraged the children to keep walking the environmental conservation talk at their schools, at home, church, the like. “I commend the efforts of Little Green Hands in creating this educative forum for children and all the schools that participated,” she concluded.
Some of the panelists at the conference
Joseph Masembe, the Green Superstar General, said children can bring hope, especially when it comes to climate change, the reason they were given fruit tree seedlings to go back home and plant. Masembe, who is behind this rather new form of environmental stewardship using Uganda’s children, said: “A child’s mind is like wet cement. When you write on it, the writing becomes permanent, so involving children at such a tender age in environmental conservation, especially through planting trees, means the future is ensured and guaranteed.”
“We are in a climate change quagmire, the rains are no longer as reliable, the dry spells longer; and it is all because adults cut down trees with impunity. Let us get children to plant trees. By the time they grow up, they will have sentimental value attached to them, and preserve them,” Masembe appeals. I asked 11-year-old Olga Mugisa from Gems Cambridge what she fears most about climate change.
Pupils from School of the Deaf, Ntinda performing a skit about tree cutting
“I fear that it will cause our lakes to dry up, and the ozone layer will die, causing the sunshine to burn our crops and heads directly, and we shall die,” she elaborated. Look out for this year’s green festival, to be held next month on the 24th at Kololo airstrip. It will be an opportunity for children to have fun with their families while learning more about the environment and the conference, which will be on annually. Vision Group, Toto magazine, Gems Cambridge International, Treetop and NEMA were the main sponsors of the conference