Bringing Roots and Shoots to the International School of Tanganyika

Dr. Jane Goodall speaking with students

It was after Swarn Lamba, a long-time teacher at IST, and a group of students met Jane Goodall that the idea of a Roots and Shoots programme arose. 

“Looking out into her (Goodalls’) garden and the beach beyond she talked about roots creeping under the ground to make a firm foundation and shoots reaching up and towards the light even breaking brick walls,” Ms. Swarn said. 

This was in 1991, it was the moment we became the first international school worldwide to run the Roots and Shoots programme. 

Ms. Swarn, inspired by her conversation with Goodall, started working towards bringing it to the school immediately. “The easiest way for me to bring it to IST and make the community aware was to do it as an after-school activity,” Ms. Swarn said. 

Goodall, excited by the initiative and supported it by visiting the school during the activity when she was in Dar es Salaam and speaking with the students. 

“On one such occasion the students were so engrossed and so was she that we lost track of time,” Ms. Swarn said. “An activity that lasted an hour went on for two and a half, and parents who had come to pick their children sat in too!”

Inspiring Individuals to be Cognisant of the Environment

Roots and Shoots aims to inspire young people to become leaders who will stand up for what is right, use their voice and make the right choices to help create a better world. It is an organization that teaches youth to have respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs and to inspire youth to take action. 

As the programme grew in popularity amongst the school community, Ms. Swarn couldn’t have been happier. 

“Roots and Shoots programme to me was like having a child: you conceive, you nurture and you let go when it’s ready to stand on its own!”

Ms. Swarn ran the programme as an afternoon activity for eight years in our Elementary School. She worked closely with Goodall and also helped edit and provide feedback for the curriculum documents The Jane Goodall Institute was publishing for the U.S. 

Aside from her personal growth through the programme, Ms. Swarn witnessed how it affected the students. “For the students, it meant empowerment, a belief that they could make a difference.”

For students wanting to join the Roots and Shoots programme, Ms. Swarn has some words of encouragement.

“Roots and Shoots empowers you to make the world a better place, you can create that powerful ripple of change,” Ms. Swarn said. “You can be the root creeping under the ground to make a firm foundation and you can be the shoot reaching up towards the light breaking barriers.”

The group has since sponsored countless initiatives including tree planting in the Pugu Hills, clean-ups of local beaches, recycling of paper and plastic from discarded on-campus litter and aiding in the construction of an effective solar panel, just to name a few. 

Roots and Shoots is an organization that has since grown internationally, with hundreds of thousands of members; it’s an organization that we are truly proud to be a member of.  

Whether it’s with Roots and Shoots, athletics, academics, etc., IST alumni make their mark both locally and globally. Click here to re-connect with other IST alumni who share your fond memories.