The Small Warriors
More than a billion children are enrolled in primary or secondary school. However, many fail to complete their education, deterred by poor school quality and persistent challenges caused by deepening poverty, gender inequities, location, emergency and conflict situations, HIV and AIDS, disabilities, chronic environmental degradation and climate related hazards leading them drop their schooling.
A number of statistics indicate the magnitude of the impact of climate change by the next decade; will be approximately 175 million children getting affected. Girls are among the most vulnerable due to existing gender inequalities that, for example, can limit their access to education and nutrition.
Various reports suggests that developing countries which include the Arctic region, Asia (major deltas, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan) and the Pacific, the Caribbean, Central Asia, Gulf of Mexico, Latin America (especially the Andean region and Amazonia), the Middle East and North Africa, the Sahel zone and Southern Africa, are already struggling with social, economic and environmental issues, will suffer most from greater weather extremes and the increasing incidence of droughts and floods. The flash flood of Kedarnath, 2013, is a major example of un-thoughtful constructions in the name of development which was covered globally and which technically distorted the livelihood and day-to-day activity of the natives. One more example of such un-sustainable development is Chennai Flood. Such conditions can impact diminishing water resources, causing increased malnutrition, waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, and vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Floods and rising sea levels can cause drowning, injuries, and severe mental and physical trauma, particularly for communities living in settlements alongside major river deltas and low-lying coastal areas.
There are many existing frameworks that suggest the parameters of environmental education, environmental economics and sustainable development. Education must ensure to equip children with necessary skills to participate freely and potentially in any society, irrespective to their gender, ethics and origin. This will ensure the capacity to cope with climate change in any part of the world. One such framework “The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Convention against Discrimination in Education” (1960) acknowledges the crucial role of education in ensuring equality of opportunity for all children.
Another such framework “The Millennium Declaration” (2000) acknowledges the importance of relationship between sustainable development and children. Over last few decades CCEE (Climate Change and Environmental Education) and ESD (Education for sustainable development) have become important tools for protecting the environment and up warding the process of sustainable development.
Unfortunately, there is still a vacant position in our global institution for a strong framework that can address the unique vulnerabilities of children to climate change and other disastrous risk caused due to it. UNICEF also works on scaling up and mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction into the education sector.
Children, apart from being naïve and passive, are proved to be mostly quick learners and contributors to every aspect of climate change, policy-making, mitigation and adaptation. They are the power agent to change and if well educated and empowered, can reduce the vulnerability of themselves and their communities to risk and can contribute to sustainable development as well. According to a research, educating girls and women is one of the best ways of strengthening community adaptation to climate change.