Mumbai: “Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow.” Imbibing this thought of India’s first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru, 39-year-old David De Souza from Goa kickstarted a campaign to sensitise school children about waste management so that when they grow up they refrain from reckless dumping of garbage. The initiative titled ‘We Litter, We Clean’, began eight months ago and aims to cover 200 schools in Goa.
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The seed of the idea to develop a safe environment for future generations was sown last year when David noticed the mounting civic problems including garbage dumping and lack of action on ground beyond the raving and ranting about it.
India is moving at a very fast pace when it comes to development and damaging the environment. People often play the victim card and complain about the garbage but do nothing about it. We cannot always blame the authorities, if it is our garbage we must take its responsibility. Thus, I decided to bring a difference among people and who better than children, says David.
A Mentor-Mentee Programme To Integrate Source Treatment
From how a composting machine/unit functions, features of a bio-degradable toilet to ways to tackle plastic menace, David gives a hands-on demonstration to the children in schools. To spread the message of waste management and segregation in an engaging way, David has roped artists and musicians. Together, the team travels to various schools to drive home the message of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Songs, magic shows, presentations and Q&A (Question and Answer) sessions are some of the methods adopted by David.
But what stands out in his comprehensive campaign is the ‘Mentor-Mentee’ programme. This programme is to ensure that the learnings do not remain confined to classrooms and a significant change is witnessed in practice. However, unlike the awareness sessions, which have been conducted in a dozen of schools, this programme has so far been conducted in only one school. David hopes to expand it in other schools as well.
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Under this programme students from different standards are allotted specific duties in managing bulk waste like monitoring, transporting it.
We can put a shutter to the whole notion that municipal authorities should treat the waste scientifically by treating it ourselves. I wanted children to indulge in source treatment which is also known as the in-situ method, says David.
David adopted Our Lady of Remedies High School in Nerul village in north Goa last year to implement the mentor-mentee programme. He requested the school authorities to add the topic of waste management in the subject of science.
The first step under this programme was to arrange a composting unit so that students could treat the waste within the school. The funds for procuring the unit were collected by the students themselves. The idea behind this was that if children go from house to house and explain why they needed the money, residents of Nerul would also get educated about the art of composting.
Students from class 5,6 and 7 were chosen as mentees and class 8,9 and 10 students were the mentors. While mentors were in charge of handling the unit, the mentees were expected to record the waste input and manure output on a daily basis. Currently, a total of 400 children are presently affiliated with the programme.
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Since the school doesn’t generate huge volumes of waste, the students carry waste from their houses. Special air-tight containers were distributed among the students in the beginning of this project to ensure zero health hazards. Everyday, one standard is asked to get waste from home.
10 kilos of manure is procured on a daily basis from the machine. The manure is then used by the school students for gardening in school. Once the students, especially the mentors, learn the workflow, David visits them and helps them build composting units outside their houses.
Teachers monitor the whole process and make a list of students who they feel can practise composting at home. Then I go to their houses, build pits so that they can treat waste at source, adds David. In last eight odd months, hundreds of students have got their household composting pits.
Besides the treatment of organic waste, plastic waste is also being taken care of by the school students. A PET cage was also installed alongside the composting unit. A total of 5,000 PET bottles have been deposited in the PET cage by the students since 2017. Every month, David transports the PET bottles to his recycling unit. Both the projects have helped in curbing the littering menace in Nerul claims David.
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With an aim of making the project self-sustainable, students who are in the final year will be expected to pass down their expertise and experience to their juniors. David hopes that by 2020, students will turn this practice into a habit and that is when a notable change can be observed.
Even though David has a full-time business to look after, he dedicated a few hours every day to teach children everything about composting units.
“I would start my day early, visit the school for three hours and then go to work. For almost an entire year I followed this routine,” adds David.
David is currently in talks with several schools of Goa, where he will replicate the same model and involve more and more children in the battle against growing garbage crisis. Of the 200 schools that he plans to target, David has managed to visit over a dozen schools.
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