In 2005, the Snow Leopard Conservancy established a partnership with the Pune-based nonprofit, Kalpavriksh, to develop a community-based environmental education program for rural Ladakh, focused on conservation of snow leopards and other wildlife of the local trans-Himalayan region. Kalpavriksh is a voluntary group working on environmental education, research, campaigns, and direct action; it was founded on the belief that a country can develop meaningfully only if ecological sustainability and social equity are guaranteed.
Sujatha Padmanabhan, coordinator of the Ladakh education program, says, “Kalpavriksh is a magical tree in Indian mythology which fulfills people’s wishes. It was one of the seven items that came up during the Sagarmanthana, (churning of the ocean), during a war between the demons (rakshasas) and the gods (devas). We took the name to reflect the fact that our organization works for the environment/nature, and nature fulfills all human needs.”
The program is aimed at government schools, classes 4 to 8, and has grown from the initial five schools involved in the pilot program (72 students and 14 teachers), to nine schools, including four in remote Zanskar, the region adjacent to Ladakh. Some 370 students and their teachers participated in conservation education workshops during 2007.
Like the other SLC India Trust activities, this program has a goal of being internally implemented, self-sufficient and largely independent of funding from outside India. Thus Kalpavriksh and SLC India Trust have increasingly raised a greater portion of funding needed to carry the program forward, including major grants from the Association for India’s Development (AID).
Birdwatching in Markha
Bringing quality education to children who live in small, widely scattered and largely ignored settlements – For example, the Shang Primary school, which has 8 kids in grades 4 and 5 and 2 teachers, is accessible by road, but the Nakdin school (3 kids, two teachers) is an hour’s walk away, and the Chokdo school (4 kids, 2 teachers) is a two-hour walk from Shang.
Teacher absenteeism and motivation – For example, there are 18 teachers at Matho, but during the initial visit in 2005, many had been called away for election duty. The isolation and minimal number of students may contribute to a lack of teacher motivation in some schools.
Indicators of Success
For this program, Kalpavriksh developed an educator’s handbook and locally relevant educational material (posters and games). When SLC-India Trust and Kalpavriksh staff met with officials in the State of J&K Education Department to report on the program, the officials requested that these teaching tools be made available to all government schools in the region. Thus In 2007 three of the posters were printed in bulk and sent to Leh. Some 700 posters have been sold in bookshops in Leh and Zanskar’s capital, Padum. While teachers may purchase the posters with their government stipend, funds from these sales are turned back into the education program, further contributing to its self-sustainability.
Playing pin the tail on the snow leopard
SLC India Trust and Kalpavriksh, are networking with three other NGOs in the area to share the educational materials and program.
Further Capacity Building
- A small library has been started, with a focus on books and magazines in simpler English for youngsters.
- The educators have begun study sessions on Saturdays.
- Under Sujatha’s supervision, the educators have started writing the reports on the workshops, along with doing the spreadsheet analysis of the assessment-reassessment scores of the children.
You may read details of the most recent workshops.