Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Guest Blog by Clive Horlock - Educating Rain Child

Educating Rain-child

For Parents and Teachers concerned with the ‘Bigger Picture’

Rain-child belongs to a Bushmen clan in Botswana and was born during a Kalahari rainstorm, which is considered lucky, hence his name.

Many friends who have joined me in the Kalahari for a Bushmen cultural experience have remarked on the behaviour of Rain-child and the other children of the clan as they never seem to need disciplining and never appear to be unhappy. The children seem to take pride in helping the adults in their domestic duties and when not helping the adults they will happily amuse themselves with a dry Tsama melon, guinea fowl feather, or similar. It does not take long for visitors to become aware of this ‘unusual’ child behaviour prompting the question “how can these children always be so happy and content even though they have nothing?”

When the question is posed to Bushmen parents, they express surprise, replying “but why should they be unhappy, children only need to be given love and safety as they are already happy?”

Does this suggest that in our modern world we have in some way taught our children how to be unhappy? Have our children been taught that happiness can only happen in association with a destination, event or reward?

As a parent and ex-teacher I have always had an interest in child development and it is with special interest that I have tried to study the interaction between Bushmen adults and their children in order to try and establish an answer to this question. Making this study even more relevant are two other factors regarding the Bushmen: Firstly, that they are considered the most successful society in human history, and secondly, that their remark- able survival lasted for tens of thousands of years, until the arrival of modern man - so what are the secrets of their success?

Trying to understand their education methodology is therefore of ongoing interest to me and what has become clear is that child raising involves the entire community, and at a very young age inculcates the philosophies which shaped the Bushmen culture of survival.

Parents concentrate on providing love and making their children feel safe. This love is demonstrated through their caring, empathetic and compassionate relationship with others and through their respect for animals. The rest of the community helps with general education and survival skills with spiritual leaders contributing to the understanding of love by developing the understanding that all thoughts associated with love contribute to the most powerful energy in the universe, the life-force, which they call N/lom.

Details of their education processes are not necessary for the purposes of this article except for one practice ofspecial significance which incorporates most of the principles of the Bushmen culture.

This practice is called the “Healing Dance”, which was/is practiced at least once a week and/or when the need arises. I originally considered this ritual to be aimed at healing ill individuals until its real purpose was made clear to me.

The ritual can better be described as a preventative and holistic healing process aimed at maintaining physical, psychological and spiritual health, as well as to maintain community well-being, the health of their environment, and connection with the natural world.

This description provides some insight into Bushmen behaviour and practices which form the basis of their culture. The healing dance purpose basically encapsulates what could be considered the ‘mission statement’ for the education of Bushmen children.

From a very young age children soon learn about the benefits of egalitarianism, sharing, giving and serving community - in essence, how to be human.

• They learn to love the natural world, and as they explain, “you cannot harm what you love”.

• They learn to suppress ego in order to avoid the social and environmentally destructive effects associated with superiority, power and greed.

• They learn to connect with the energies of the universe and to benefit from universal intelligence.

Dare we compare the education of children today with that of Rain-child?

While today education focuses on what children can be in the future, how much focus is placed on ensuring that there will be a future? I share the story of Grace which illustrates the effectivity of our education system in terms of preparing children for the future.

Grace, not her real name, was 13 years old at the time and a pupil at a very prestigious UK School when a teacher asked the class to create picture boards of what they wanted their lives to look like in twenty years time. Grace’s board displayed the typical big house, cars and exotic holiday’s but one thing that caught the teacher’s eye were the words “no more climate change”. When the teacher explained that all her wants were not compatible with ‘no climate change’, she went silent, and asked “why, is there no way around it?”

‘Grace’ represents an average child who could be attending almost any School on the planet, so the question which needs to be asked of any person involved in education, from assistant teacher to senior education planner is “How is it possible that a child who has been in the conventional education system for approximately 8 years, does not understand that having a surplus of material possessions as well as ‘no climate change and environmental degradation’ is impossible?

How is it possible that Rain-child’s predecessors in 50 000BC understood this better than did Grace in 2019 AD? Is it because this truth would conflict with the modern global economic system dependent on growth and consumerism? Do children believe that it is possible for all 7 billion people on the planet to achieve what appears on their ‘picture board’? If not, who must be excluded and why?

One of the ‘costs’ of today's consumer-driven society is the lack of quality time parents are able to enjoy with their children.

We are told that this is the price of progress - but progress towards what?

What is the ‘deemed goal’ towards which humanity is supposedly progressing? Without knowing this goal/s, how is it possible to say that progress is being made?

Parents, are you educating your children to achieve goals which celebrate humanity, the environment and the sustainability of both or do you consider this the duty of educational institutions?

Teachers, if you had to write your ‘mission statement” for humanity on your classroom wall, one which cuts across all curricula and addresses the sustainable well-being of all humankind, what would it say? How much of your mission statement would be addressed by your current subject curriculum?

As we are in an age of multiple crises, fake information and questionable leadership is it not time for each and every person to use their own logic, reasoning and freedom of choice to make the changes necessary to ensure sustainable well-being for all humankind and planet.

© Clive Horlock

About the Author

Young environmentalist and birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig 
Copyright Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

17-year-old young British Bangladeshi Dr Mya-Rose Craig AKA Birdgirl from the Chew Valley near Bristol is a prominent birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, race activist, writer, speaker and broadcaster, writing the Birdgirl Blog since January 2014 when she was 11 years old, which is extremely popular with both adults and children and now has over 4 million views. She has travelled all her life, visiting all seven continents when she was 13 years old, giving her a global perspective on conservation and the needs of indigenous peoples.  She writes posts about birding, nature, stopping climate breakdown, conservation and stopping species loss,  other environmental issues and racism from around the world. 

Expertise in birds and nature

She has been birding all her life with her parents and sister as well as birding abroad. She is passionate about birds, obtained her BTO Bird ringing licence at the youngest possible age of 16, takes part in the BTO Nest Record Scheme and became the youngest person to see half the worlds’ birds when she was 17 in Brazil in August 2019. 

Climate Activist

Mya-Rose has been highlighting the urgent need to tackle climate change since she was 8 years old, raising the issue with pupils, teachers in school and local people. She continued with her campaigning from January 2014, blogging about climate change and quickly building a huge following and reaching 1 million views. In 2015, she was recognised for her climate campaigning work by being made a Bristol 2015 European Green Capital Ambassador along with Miranda Krestovnikoff, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Kevin McCloud and Simon King and spoke at the Bristol Climate Change Rally Nov 2015 in front of 3,000 people. She continued writing, speaking and campaigning about the need for governments and big businesses to take urgent action to stop a climate catastrophe, particularly within the context of Bangladesh being at the top of the list of countries that will be most affected, the need for Global Climate Justice and a fair transition. In 2019, she camped and protested at Extinction Rebellion uprisings in London and Bristol, appeared in the video that launched the successful Stop Bristol Airport Expansion Campaign, set up XR Chew Valley, is a Bristol Youth Strike organiser, speaking three times at the Bristol Youth Strikes in March, May and July 2019 and sits on the Bristol Mayor’s One City Environmental Sustainability Board. In February 2020, she shared a stage with Greta Thunberg in Bristol, speaking in front of a crowd of 40,000 youth strikers. Mya-Rose also campaigns and gives talks arguing for global climate justice and a fair and just transition.

Conservation work

As well as educating people about the benefits of nature Mya-Rose has also campaigned to protect species from extinction and fight against environmental damage since she was 8 years old, then in January 2014  starting to blog about conservation issues such as palm oil, GMO, pesticides and other issues, for instance, campaigning for the immediate clean up of a devastating oil spill in the  Unesco World Heritage site, the Sundarbans mangroves in Bangladesh, writing in the American Birding Association Blog and raising $35,000 for the cleanup in 3 days. She has travelled all her life, visiting all seven continents when she was 13 years old, giving her a global perspective on conservation and the needs of indigenous peoples. 


In 2014 Mya-Rose was listed with singer-songwriter George Ezra and Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams as one of Bristol's most influential young people. She was nominated in the Birdwatch Magazine Birder's Choice Awards 2015 in the Blogger of the Year category and she was the runner up after Mark Avery and was nominated in the Bristol Young Heroes Awards 2016. In 2017 she won the Royal Bath and West Show Environmental Youth Award, she was the Minister of Diversity in Nature and Conservation in Chris Packham's A Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife. In 2019, she was listed in Bristol's BME Top 100 Powerlist, The Guardian’s 10 everyday heroes fighting to save the planetwas nominated in the Birdwatch Magazine Birder's Choice Awards 2019  Conservation Hero of the Year with Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot. coming joint second after Greta Thunberg, was included in the Bristol Powerlist 2020, a list of the City’s 50 most powerful and influential people and The Guardian’s Top 15 World's Biodiversity Activists

Honorary Doctorate

In February 2020 Mya-Rose became the youngest person to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science D.Sc. h.c from Bristol University, one of the top universities in the UK and is receiving it for her five years of campaigning for diversity in the environmental sector. The sixth-former, yet to finish her A-Levels, is being recognised for her activism and the much-needed pioneering change through Black2Nature including nature camps and her Race Equality in Nature Conferences.

Connecting with children

Mya-Rose has huge experience engaging children and teenagers of all ages, ethnicity and socio-economic backgrounds with nature and environmental issues, having engaged approximately 50,000 so far.  As President of her organisation Black2Nature she has led the fight for equal access to the natural environment for Visible Minority Ethnic people, organising nine nature camps, Camp Avalon, for VME children and teenagers and two high profile conferences, Race Equality in Nature and is organising more for 2020She also wrote to five of the biggest NGO's in 2015, after her first camp, asking them what steps they were taking to make their organisations ethnically diverse and has continued putting pressure on nature, conservation, environmental, environmental education and wildlife film-making sectors to change. In 2020, she has two teenage camps being arranged in conjunction with the RSPB and hopes that these will expand over the next 3 years.

Race Activist

Her first conference was in 2016, which aimed to increase the ethnic diversity in nature by looking at the barriers to Visual Minority Ethnic (VME) people going out into nature, what can be done to overcome these barriers and how we can create VME role models. Speakers included Bill Oddie, Kerry McCarthy MP, Stephen Moss and Dr Richard Benwell. She also organised a second conference, Race Equality in Nature: The Next Generation 13-30 in October 2019 with Speakers Chris Packham, Bristol Deputy Mayor, Councillor Asher Craig, Green Party Councillor Cleo Lake, RSPB CEO Beccy Speight and Survival International CEO Stephen Corry.

She has also set up Black2Nature in 2016 with the aim of working with organisations to increase the access to nature of VME people and is President. Please connect with her on LinkedIn (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig) so that she can invite you to join the Race Equality in Nature LinkedIn Group and be part of the change. 

Articles, interviews and books

She has written articles for and appeared in many newspapers including BBC News OnlineThe Times, The GuardianThe Sunday ObserverThe Sunday TelegraphThe IndependentDaily MailThe MetroNew StatesmanBig IssueNew InternationalistResurgence & Ecologist MagazineFriends of the Earth Magazine and Triodos Bank Magazine. She has been published in The Willowherb ReviewNew Networks for NatureChartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and Red Sixty Seven. She is writing a children’s book and an autobiography about growing up with a passion for birds and her journey to seeing half the world’s birds.


She has given over 50 talks including her first hour and a half entertaining look at growing up birding, Born to Bird, in 2014, speaking at Tedx in 2016, being on a Panel with George Monbiot & Caroline Lucas MP in 2017, appearing at the Hay Festival 2018 Main Stage, speaking to 500 pupils at Millfield School, speaking at Chris Packham’s 2018 Peoples Walk for Wildlife in front of 10,000 people in Hyde Park and at English Nature’s 2019 Staff Conference to 1,500 conservationists.

Television and Radio

She has appeared on TV and Radio including BBC SpringwatchBBC CountryfileBBC The One Show, Inside Out, BBC Radio Four Tweet of the DayITV West Film Feature plus a second and thirdBBC Radio Four Saturday Live as well News such as Channel Four News, ITV News, Channel 5 News, The Today Programme appearing in BBC Four Twitchers: A Very British Obsession age 7 and featured in the 2017 BFI/BBC Four Silent Roars, presenting a German-French Arte/ARD documentary Missing - Where have all the birds gone? investigating the decline of grassland and farmland bird species, a 2020 short film by Josh Dury and short videos for EarthWatch Institute Wild Days Programme.


Mya-Rose also campaigns to stop biodiversity loss and species extinction and the rights of indigenous peoples. She is involved with Youth for our Planet UK, is a Voluntary Sector Leader Representative on Bristol City Council Strategic Boards, on the Catalyse Change Advisory Board and has attended many meetings at Downing Street and Parliament. She is a Patron for The Bristol Global Goals Centre, Global Ambassador for Burns Price FoundationEarthwatch EuropeSurvival InternationalWorld Shorebird Day and Leica Optics as well as being a Charter Champion for The Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

Mya-Rose above all has a passion and love of birds and wildlife driving her in everything. Her favourite birds are Harpy Eagle seen in Brazil and Southern Cassowary in Queensland, Australia. Other animal favourites are Orangutang in Borneo, Mountain Gorillas in Uganda, Emperor Penguin in Antarctica and Komodo Dragon in Indonesia.

Social Media

Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page, follow her on Birdgirl TwitterBirdgirl Instagram and Birdgirl LinkedIn. If you would like to contact Mya-Rose about her work, please e-mail helenabcraig@hotmail.co.uk.

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