Established in 2018, the Youth Wing of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) is an initiative that invests in developing eco-literacy and awareness on environmental conservation amongst the youth of Sri Lanka. Since the inception of the Youth Wing, National Development Bank (NDB Bank) has been the exclusive financial partners in the implementation of the ‘Education for Conservation’ programme. Together, we have engaged with 58 schools across 12 districts, islandwide, reaching more than 5000 students. Programmes are conducted in the three languages; English, Sinhala and Tamil depending on the region and demographic participating in the programme.
The Education for Conservation programme comprises of awareness sessions, field trips and the kickstarting of sustainability projects within schools. The awareness sessions address contemporary environmental issues in the country such as deforestation, climate change, pollution, and the need for human-wildlife co-existence. The field trips are curated to provide the students with an opportunity to connect and appreciate the natural world firsthand. Field trips to the Wilpattu, Horton Plains, Bundala, Udawalawe and Wasgamuwa national parks have been made. Many children who participate in the programme, even so, having grown up at the borders of national parks – have not had an opportunity to visit the parks on safari previously.
Therefore, the opportunity of going on safari gives these children an unforgettable experience that allows them to appreciate the value of nature that surrounds them.
In 2018 and 2019, the students involved in the programme took part in an All-island Poster Competition. The school children showcased their perspectives on the state of the planet in the present and the future, highlighting solutions for environmental-related problems. The art on display was vibrant and highlighted both the best and worst-case scenario for the planet.
To ensure the sustainability of the programme, the Youth Wing facilitates and guides the establishment of small scale sustainability projects within schools. For this, toolkits developed by the Youth Wing on the areas of reforestation, waste management, bio fencing and organic farming are given to the schools. Schools are also provided with a tri-lingual publication on their environmental rights and responsibilities, which encourages students to be aware of their environmental responsibilities as citizens of Sri Lanka.
The Youth Wing’s vision for 2020 was to engage with 35 new schools in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, but unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed these programmes.
However, since, the very onset of the pandemic, the Youth Wing has been innovative and adaptive, conducting sessions utilising online platforms. Workshops on how to become a citizen scientist, upcycling waste at home and understanding animal behaviour have been expertly designed and conducted for youth reaching thousands.
The social media platforms of the Youth Wing also contribute to this process by developing and sharing educational content on environmentally related topics. The Youth Wing has also conducted multiple competitions such as recently a poetry competition, crossword challenges and an online wildlife quiz for kids.
A big success for the Youth Wing in 2020 was the establishment of the first regional Youth Wing Club in Jaffna. This regional club will lead with the implementation and development of environmental programmes in the North - enabling and inspiring a new generation to become custodians of our environment.
The WNPS Youth Wing is grateful to the continued support of NDB Bank in promoting conservation. Together, we will continue to empower the youth of Sri Lanka via Education for Conservation to become environmentally conscious ambassadors and leaders.