- In Swachh Survekshan 2017, Bhopal emerged as 2nd cleanest city of India
- Swachhta Ki Pathshala will cover nearly 25,000 slum kids
- Slum children are trained to report unhygienic practices and issues to NGO
New Delhi: Involve the most neglected section of the society and tap children to secure the future in terms of cleanliness and sanitation, was what drove the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) to be part of the ‘Swachhta Ki Pathshala’ concept. The basic idea was to start an informal school where lessons on Swachh Bharat Abhiyan were taught. It began in May this year with a 3-day workshop that was held in slums of Suraj Nagar where slum children were given lessons on waste segregation, personal hygiene and were even trained to perform ‘Roko Toko’, a practice where children were given whistles to blow whenever they spotted anyone defecating in the open. Behind this whole campaign was an NGO, Sanidhya Samiti and seeing the success of this exercise and to retain Bhopal’s clean city crown (it was ranked 2nd cleanest city of India in Swachh Survekshan 2017 ), the NGO decided to implement the same in all areas of the city.
The idea is to catch them young. Children have proven to be very strong carriers of social messages especially ones related to attitudinal change. Hence through children, we plan to change our entire Eco-system, Chhavi Bhardwaj, Commissioner, BMC tells NDTV.
Sharing the same thought and goal, Ritu Sharma, Secretary, Sanidhya Samiti, says, “There are several hygiene related problems that prevail in slum areas due to lack of garbage segregation and piles of trash that rot in one corner. So spreading awareness on sanitation is the need of the hour and children are the best swachhta agents. Also, adults get a little ashamed when children are the ones who are teaching them good sanitary habits.”
The NGO aims to cover all 85 wards of the city, and in each ward there are on average 2-3 bastis. Hence nearly 25,000 slum children are likely to become members of this programme. With the target of covering one slum area every week, so far, around 20 slums have been covered and in next 2-3 months, the ‘Swachhta ki Pathshala’ will be integrated in all the slum areas.
Around 20 volunteers along with sanitation experts, celebrities spend 5 hours with the children, where they teach best hygienic practices in a fun and interesting way. For instance, the class begins will defining ‘Swachhta’ and then they are taught to implement sanitation values in their lives before teaching it to others. Then a short lecture on pros and cons of sanitation is given by a professor, followed by fun activities like drawing, craft that are carried out with a celebrity. And in the end a practical test through role plays is conducted by the volunteers, “Role plays is the most important aspect of this programme as through this we come to know how ready are these children to fight for swachhta,” says Ms Sharma.
Further explaining the kind of role plays she says, “One of the volunteers becomes a common man spitting on roads and the child has to stop this. Since these children, otherwise do not get an opportunity to showcase their duty towards the nation, take this act very seriously. They put forward the right arguments and effectively explain the swachhta lessons.”
At the end of every class, whistles and caps are distributed to these swachhta students and just like class monitors, children are made cleanliness monitors of their respective areas. A follow up is carried out by the NGO after every 15 days to collect the progress report. And if within 15 days, children want to raise any issue, a WhatsApp number of the NGO is given to their parents.
Once all the slum areas are covered, the NGO will take forward ‘Swachhta Ki Pathshala’ in Resident Welfare Associations (RWA’s) and commercial areas, “Inculcating civic sense in every child is very essential to make Swachh Bharat Abhiyan a success and hence we will target children in residential areas as well,” says Ms Sharma.
It isn’t the first time that Madhya Pradesh, which had 8 cities in the top 25 cleanest cities list in Swachh Survekshan, has tapped children to spread awareness about Swachh Bharat Mission. School children from cities like Indore and Jabalpur have also come out in huge numbers and joined the famous ‘Roko Toko’ initiative which focusses on ending open defecation.