Bringing Roots & Shoots to Congolese Classrooms
Written By: By Anna Muir, JGI Canada Volunteer
Category: From The Field
Primary education is compulsory in the Republic of Congo, however, many schools in remote areas are under resourced, with teachers frequently unpaid. Parents try to encourage teachers to continue educating their children by providing them with food and other forms of support. But in a country where many families struggle to meet their own basic needs, this isn’t always possible. As a result, many teachers remain unmotivated. Classrooms become little more than a collection of desks and dust-covered chalkboards—not places of learning.
Using Roots & Shoots materials as a guide, staff members at the Jane Goodall Institute in the Congo are strengthening the capacity of teachers at three schools located in nearby protected nature reserves, including the Tchimpounga Nature Reserve, Conkuati Douli National Park and Dimonika Biosphere Reserve.
Bringing Roots & Shoots programming to communities where deforestation and poaching are ongoing threats is a crucial step in developing long-term conservation strategies. As a youth-led program, Roots & Shoots empowers young people to address sustainability challenges in their communities. By introducing this program, teachers can inspire the next generation to steward and defend the natural world.
Teacher training workshops were arranged to help develop teaching resources and age-appropriate methods for fostering a deeper sense of appreciation and respect for nature. Patricia Poati, past JGI Congo staff member and current Departmental Director at the Ministry of Education, joined these capacity-building workshops. After passing out Roots & Shoots program manuals, she explained JGI’s education programs, the importance of inspiring children, and how to start Roots & Shoots groups and lead meetings while taking into account different learning styles.
Teachers were given the opportunity to test out some of the Roots & Shoots’ experiential learning activities for themselves —such as a community mapping exercise through the forest, encouraging participants to describe their surroundings and form a deeper connection with the earth. Finally, the teachers were introduced to interactive resources—like JGI Congo’s Super Kodo children’s television series—as tools to explain ecological terms and highlight the importance of protecting animals and the environment.
Solutions for a healthier planet lie with children and youth and the teachers that support, inspire and guide them. At the end of these community outreach workshops, teachers felt ready to bring the Roots & shoots program into their classrooms, and inspire their students to take on local environmental challenges and create positive change.