Growing up in the cradle of nature

A LOOK CLOSE






Do you get wooden planks from rice paddies? This bizarre question is often cited to give an idea of ​​the knowledge deficit of children born and raised in cities. Why rice plants? After all, the staple food of the Bangalees — regardless of their permanent residences in villages or towns — is rice. It is therefore expected that a child living in an urban environment will have at least the primary knowledge of the plant that nourishes the race known for its preference for rice and fish.
Without getting into a debate about whether there are still a few urban aristocrats who pride themselves on never seeing a paddy field, let us recall how Rabindranath regretted the missed opportunity of not taking a few steps to see a dewdrop on an ear of corn (paddy). Even in rapidly transforming rural settings, the pristine natural world is disappearing with power cables, automobiles, and even cable televisions, direct-to-home (DTH) connections, and the Internet announcing their presence. The protruding ugly sights of cellphone towers took over the scenic green lines long ago.
We often hear clairvoyant people complain that children are stolen from childhood. Indeed, dissociation with the worlds of surrounding flora and fauna robs children of the most enriching experience they were meant to have in the lap of nature. In his early years, Rabindranath’s eyes longed for the limited views that regularly opened through the window along the narrow lanes leading to a pond. That he moved to Shantiniketan, Bolepur in order to live close to Nature shows the depth of his relationship with Nature and Nature’s relationship with him. During his stay in Shelaidah, relations took on a considerable dimension. Wordsworth, another nature lover, roamed the hills and valleys of Yorkshire to enjoy their beauty. For him, nature was an expression of the divine.
Today, the landscapes—both in England and in Bangladesh/West Bengal—have changed phenomenally, as has the mental landscape of children, if not more. However, young people are hardly to blame. The type of upbringing imposed on them is largely to blame. They get used, under the system, to transforming into a parrot in Rabindranath’s Totakahini (Parrot’s Tale). In most cases, they find little leisure to familiarize themselves with birds, flowers, trees, insects and animals. Whatever idea they form of such a living world, they come from channels such as Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet and BBC Earth, if they develop an interest in them.
The environments at home and at school, however, are not conducive to the development of a taste for such soft and human matters. Among city dwellers ranging from the lower middle class to the affluent, children are introduced to cartoons or smart phones earlier than they see some of the common animals. Schools are more or less professional but passive factories that manufacture products for commercial purposes without regard to the special needs and talents of young learners. Except for a few rare cases, the human touches of teachers that turn learners’ souls to gold are lacking.
Textbooks are substandard and the quality of teachers leaves much to be desired. Hardly anyone is interested in life sciences, geography and anthropology. Emphasis is placed on scoring high and achieving GPA (grade point average) -5. Wonder of wonders, when some of the GPA-5 or A+ winners of this year’s SSC exams were interviewed by a TV reporter, none of them could even tell what GPA means, let alone answer other common questions.
Will the proposed educational reform and the textbooks in preparation encourage teachers and pupils to get closer to the living world, to familiarize themselves with the sights and sounds of nature? An academic but nature lover, Dwijen Sharma has made it a point of honor that the natural environment is as preserved as possible. Waheedul Huq, known for his multiple pioneering roles in setting the socio-cultural tone of this country, used to go out with a large group of followers to familiarize them with trees. They are natural teachers who are sorely missed by the younger generations.
Among the living, Mukit Majumdar Babu has done an excellent job of focusing relentlessly on the diversity of Nature. The younger generation can learn concrete lessons from its programs that classroom teaching can hardly provide.
It is indeed dangerous to produce young robots unable to show empathy for the different forms of life and to appreciate the beauty of Nature. Education can be truly interesting and enjoyable if a balance is struck between knowledge of science/technology and the precept of the living world.

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