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     Volume 5 Issue 105 | July 28, 2006 |

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Visions of our Future Leaders

Faria Tasnin

Mahatma Gandhi was a man of simple vision. He began his political life with the statement, “What can I do?” In reality, things just don't happen by themselves; one must take the initiative to do it. One of the biggest challenges of today is to keep our cities clean. It needs a healthy living environment, one that every one of us can be benefitted by. But in order to fulfill such an endeavour, actions must be taken. Large corporations have undertaken the beautification of our cities, be it by taking care of road dividers keeping the beaches at Cox's Bazar clean. But in order to involve people at the individual level, the ideas and urge must come from within.

To bring out this urge in children, a recent workshop was held for the child members of Kendriya Kachi Kanchar Mela in their own premises .The workshop was conducted by ArchKids (Architecture for Kids)- an outreach programme of BRAC University. Here, a group of 30 children were given the theme “My Dream City” and were told to elaborate from their perspective. The objective of the session was to join Kachi Kanchar Mela's cultural aspects with ArchKids environmental and architectural awareness. The end result was to introduce a fresh impetus to accelerate the process of grooming the children. It also triggered their intellect on issues that surround their everyday lives.

This was the third eventful workshop by ArchKids and like previous sessions, slideshows and discussions were held on environmental issues. The children were asked to discuss the problems surrounding Dhaka city's cleanliness. “What can you do about it?” The group was quick to dish out suggestions. One of the children suggested a signboard stating, “Do not litter.” Another suggested collecting toll money to buy a trash can for his apartment complex. Others suggested the same for their <>moholla<>. There are times when the children can provoke adults to think. With ideas like these, a wave is already set in motion.

Kachi Kanchar Mela and ArchKids collectively want to create such a wave by reaching out to all the members of over 300 Kendriya Kachi Kanchar Mela branches in Bangladesh. They have taken on the challenge of thinking of ways to change their environment and stimulating the minds of others to do the same. The children participating in such workshops automatically become members of ArchKids, which has acted as a catalyst to bind together the thoughts and words of these young ones. Whatever professions they go to in the future, this learning will stay with them.

Symbiotically, simply caring for one's environment eventually will act as a way to teaching accountability to the children -- the question of accountability for his or her actions when they grow up and take the lead for urban management. If the children take part in the community, there is a special bond being developed. It may be a tree which they have planted or (even the fact that someone is using) a trash-can which they have helped to buy.

In a later part of the event, the children were told to paint together their dream city. When they started working on it, it became a jigsaw puzzle of individual dreams, united together to form a perfect city. There is always some expectation from one's city and if the city doesn't accommodate the needs and aspirations of our future generations, then discontent towards our environment will set in. During the discussion session, one of the girls said that when she is in her room, she is surrounded by darkness and discomfort, and feels a terrible urge to get out of it, which is sign of a sick building syndrome. At the city scale, spaces between buildings are as important as the building form to ensure appropriate levels of air movement, daylight and social access. One child suggested that they would have no option but to simply leave Dhaka city and go abroad. Readymade cities are already present to live in. Hearing this, other children pounced on him. This showed that most of them have some kind of pride in their city, they possess hopes and vigour for rebuilding their cites.

Our younger generation is being lulled by the image of magnificent cities, which they see on the television. They see the eye-catching skyscrapers, the wide clean traffic-free roads, the flashy cars, and the natural surroundings, all that can be quite appealing. Iconic buildings have become trademarks for recognising cities. Say from the music video by Ronan Keating on the Burj Al Arab Hotel, one can quickly know that it's in Dubai. These man-made landmarks also radiate a positive image of a country's economic status. In the latest Mission Impossible movie, some of the movie shots are done in Pudong, an instant city just built in a decade. While there are traditional cites like Calcutta, which has grown out of a long process of human intervention, and has its own appeal. Hence, there is no logical basis to comparing these two. So what are the benchmarks for a good city? What appeals to one person may not be rationally acceptable to another.

The children carry with them magnificent dreams that have the potential to turn our city into a more sustainable living environment and, if given appropriate guidance, can stitch together fragments of hope for making a beautiful Bangladesh.

Photograph: Nafisur Rahman, BRAC University

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