We would all be a lot healthier and happier if more of us tuned into the “beautiful balance” of nature, says Raj Rajkumar.
The principal of Starling Primary School in Rylands was appointed a veteran honorary ranger for the SA National Parks Table Mountain region on Tuesday September 15. He’s been an honorary ranger for the past 25 years, almost as long as he’s been behind the principal’s desk.
Mr Rajkumar, of Pelican Park, has loved nature since he was a boy. His parents and grandparents, he says, were nature lovers and taught him and his siblings the importance of caring for the environment. They were also encouraged to learn about plants and the night skies, and, along the way, says Mr Rajkumar, they came to realise the benefits of being in nature – relaxation, improved breathing and physical exercise being just some of them.
The values he learnt as a boy he now passes on to his pupils as well as to other children who join him on hikes and conservation programmes that deal with subjects such as saving water, recycling and being thrifty with paper.
Mr Rajkumar started working as a SANParks ranger in 1984 and became an honorary ranger in 1994.
He says he always wanted to pursue a career in nature conservation, but the only course that was available to him as a young man was taught in Pretoria… in Afrikaans, which wasn’t his first or second language, so he took up teaching as a career instead and kept nature conservation as a hobby.
“I started going to national parks and hiking and game reserves,” he says, “and then I started taking pupils on hikes and nature outings, and this kept them away from crime, drugs, and other social ills.”
Being an honorary ranger means putting in 10 hours of voluntary work a month and showing a passion for nature, he says.
He has served as chairperson of the SANParks Table Mountain region and vice chairperson of its national executive council. He was also involved in anti-poaching, junior rangers, firefighting and mountain-safety projects as well as the training of honorary rangers.
He is a qualified field guide and trains others, and he has been recognised for training school pupils from across the Cape Peninsula to become junior rangers.
Mr Rajkumar also encourages adults to become rangers because he says nature helps you relax and it acts like a natural gym.
“There is nothing more beautiful than nature,” he says. “I really encourage others to become involved in nature which has a beautiful balance to it. I believe that all schools should have nature studies from Grade R until matric. Pupils must be encouraged to stop littering, and recycle and all must be educated about nature conservation. At the end of the day, we must save our planet Earth.”
George Smith, chairman of the SANParks Table Mountain region, congratulated Mr Rajkumar on his new appointment, saying:
“I believe it is a well-deserved honour.”