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World Environment Day: Meet The Children Of ‘Green Gurukul’, The Next Generation Of Climate Change Warriors

Green Gurukul is an inter-school holistic student interaction initiative run by a non-government organsaiton, Waste Warriors, among the students of government schools from Class six to Class 12 in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand

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World Environment Day: Meet The Children Of 'Green Gurukul', The Next Generation Of Climate Change Makers
The aim is to highlight environmental issues we currently face as a nation and bring in innovation, creativity, and leadership skills through activities that are more solution-driven

New Delhi: Climate change has increased levels of uncertainty about our future. As its impacts intensify over time, one thing has become certain: we will leave the Earth to today’s children and young people, and to future generations. Therefore, it becomes imperative for the younger generation to be involved in conversations about climate change and in its mitigation and adaptation.

To make sure that the young population becomes valuable contributors to climate action rather than victims of it, an Uttarakhand-based non-government organisation, Waste Warriors, has been running a community activation programme known as ‘Green Gurukul’.

Also Read: The Agenda Behind Dettol’s Climate Resilient School Project That Aims To Tackle The Climate Change Crisis In India

GREEN GURUKUL

Green Gurukul was started in 2017. Initially, there were around 22 schools and 3,223 students who became a part of this programme. Today, there are more than nearly 39000 students from more than 70 schools in the last seven years that are a part of Green Gurukul.

It is an inter-school holistic student interaction programme that mobilises school students for taking environmental action through a range of activities and initiatives. It is designed to bring together schools to help raise awareness on various environmental issues, including climate change and waste management. The aim is to highlight environmental issues we currently face as a nation and bring in innovation, creativity, and leadership skills through activities that are more solution-driven.

Speaking to the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India team, Waste Warriors’ Chief Executive Officer, Vishal Kumar, said that the motive behind launching this initiative was personal.

It was very personal as we thought of our own journeys of leaving our lucrative jobs to fulfil our dream of contributing to environmental conservation. In order for kids to protect their environment early on, we wanted to instil the same values in them from an early age.

The initiative is run among the students from Class 6 to Class 12. The programme is run in the government schools of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Under the initiative, the NGO runs a Green Campus Programme, which is currently active in government schools of Himachal Pradesh, in the Solan, Nalagarh, Kangra districts, with the aim to transform them into Green Campuses. Under this, they set up a holistic solid waste management system that focuses on fostering knowledge about climate change among children. The project has an integrated approach, wherein they engage students in interactive sessions through different mediums be it movie screening, games, and quiz competitions about climate change, skits and other thought provoking activities.

Additionally, the NGO also conducts sessions with teachers, mid-day meal workers and safai sathis so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and their individual and collective contribution to solid waste management at school premises.

The NGO has a ‘Teacher Training’ module, wherein the teachers receive knowledge on waste management, climate change, sustainability, and other environmental challenges as well as instruction on how to discuss these topics in the classroom. To get a firsthand understanding of how the activity should be carried out with the students, the teacher participates in the games described in the module. It is a six-session, four-month programme that is offered both online and offline.

The NGO has put innovative products in the school so that students can practise what they are taught in the classrooms. Some of these products include:

Gullaks: These tin-like structures are provided in the schools so that the students learn to store dry waste in a segregated form. Besides, the schools have bins for the disposal of wet and sanitary waste.

Waste Pouch: The children learn to reuse old cloth by transforming it into a pouch that they can carry with them wherever they go. When they generate waste and cannot find a litter bin, they can use the pouch to store the waste instead of littering it around.

The management of sanitary waste can be a huge challenge for schools with zero waste collection services. Through interactive sessions, the NGO has also introduced the students to sustainable menstrual hygiene products like reusable pads and menstrual cups.

Talking about his experience with the training session Mr. Hari Om, teacher at Government Senior Secondary School, Nalagarh, said,

Waste Warriors team implemented Green Campus Program in our school. Students participated very enthusiastically in all the activities which was conducted by the Waste Warriors team. I really appreciate the efforts which are being taken by this organization to sensitize young generation.

Another faculty from Nalagarh, Mr. Arun, said,

Our school does not have any waste collection service. With the help of Green Campus Program, infrastructure has been developed within the school to properly segregate the dry waste and composting pits have been made for wet waste. With the help of practical activities which were conducted by Waste Warriors team, students learned to segregate waste into various categories. It was great working with the team as they are very energetic and enthusiastic.

Kiran Sharma, Principal at Government Senior Secondary School, Parwanoo, said,

Under Green Campus Program Waste Warriors conducted various activities in the school. With the help of creative games and wall murals the team educated students about proper waste management. Gullaks and dustbins were also provided to the school. We thank Waste Warriors team for the amazing work they do.

Also Read: World Environment Day 2023: The Role Of Water, Hygiene And Sanitation In Building A Climate Resilient Tomorrow

INTERACTIVE CLASSROOM SESSIONS

To make the initiative more interactive, the NGO keeps conducting fun sessions, like a rap competition, which they conducted online last year, to raise awareness about waste. The session witnessed the participation of multiple students from different schools in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

The NGO had also organised a game called ‘Game of Throws’, inspired from the famous television series ‘Game of Thrones’. In this, the students were taught about the significance and process of segregating waste at school and at home. Mr. Kumar added,

Such kind of engagement also gives students a sense of identity, it gives them that boost of energy and encouragement.

STUDENTS’ ENTHUSIASM

Zeba Rani, a Class 11 student from Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Nalagarh, informed us how the NGO has taught them the about different types of waste.

The team displayed four types of waste—dry, wet, electronic, and other hazardous—in front of us and taught us the ways to segregate each type of waste. Then we were handed over different types of products, which we were asked to dispose of categorically. It was very interesting.

Ms. Rani has also created several slogans, charts, and waste pouches, which she uses at home as well.

Talking about the learnings received from the Green Gurukul programme, Renu, a student of Class 10 from the Nalagarh school said,

The Waste Warriors taught us to reduce the use of plastic, and a similar message must be conveyed to as many people as possible. I did not know the plastics could take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose, and also affect the soil. So it becomes more important to dispose of it properly. I also adapted the learning at home. I now collect all the plastic waste, plant saplings in it, and put it in school.

Ms Renu recited a self-written short poem for us, reflecting her learnings:

“Chalo humein prithvi ko plastic se bachana hai,

Isiliye logon ko batana hai ki

Plastic ko duniya se duur le jana hai”

(We have to save our planet from plastic

So we need to let people know

We need to make the planet plastic free)

Observing the confidence and growing awareness among the students, Mr. Vishal Kumar said he has seen a shift in the consciousness of today’s youth, as compared to previous generations. He said that today’s children are far more aware, have a voice, and are creative. Green Gurukul is a platform, where these children can channel their energy, be part of the solution, grow, and become leaders of environmental change. Mr Kumar said,

These school children are magical; with a little guidance, most of them have formed their own teams to discuss the actions they can take to keep their surroundings clean; they are visiting the supermarkets and guiding the owners to keep sustainable products in their stores and ways to dispose of the waste generated; they have started composting waste food at their homes, and much more. So, it’s all being led by the students for the students. And we are just the backend facilitators to let that happen. And we guide them, monitor them, you know, enable them to kind of continue doing what they’re doing, and if they hit any roadblocks, you know, we kind of try to look into that.

Also Read: On World Environment Day, India’s First Climate Resilient School Launched By Dettol In Uttarakhand

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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