A modest house-turned-office in one of Koramangala’s many quiet lanes is home to a ripple effect. For over 13 years, the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA), a group working to improve children’s civic engagement, has functioned quietly from its office in the area, attempting to rejuvenate a sense of citizenship in the young.

Over the years, it has partnered with children from 83 government and private schools for a variety of activities, such as regular programmes on appreciating traffic policemen, helping with solid waste segregation, and reducing use of plastic.

A time commitment

There is no formal process to become a member school with the CMCA. Manjunath Sadashiva, director, CMCA, says the primary consideration is time: a school has to be willing to set aside one regular teaching hour a week exclusively for civic club activities.

Manjunath, who has been with CMCA since its inception, explains that it was started to respond to a sensethat children were not being prepared to become citizens of the largest democracy. “We want to change the methodology, the way civics is taught,” he says.

Once the civic club is set up, localised, effective action seems to be the approach. With names like ‘The Eco Sizzlers’ or ‘The Green Twisters’, civic clubs start simple, perhaps by setting up a composting pit in their school or making a habit of switching off the lights. Field trips (such as a visit to a Traffic Controller’s Office) and public walkathons to raise awareness can soon follow.

Children the auditors

In the 25 government schools that have become members, the group’s civic volunteers also facilitate a ‘school audit’ programme. “Children are asked to check if they have received their entitlements, from basics such as furniture and lighting, to government scheme-related entitlements, like the midday meal scheme,” says Manjunath. A team of children goes around the school, marking the availability of these facilities on a sheet, and then presents its findings to the school management committee.

CMCA has also recently begun to expand its activities beyond schools — it coordinates a course on the Indian Constitution for Bangalore University, and is embarking on as study to quantify the civic skills of Indian children — “across gender, age groups, location,” says Manjunath. This study will be ready by the end of 2013.

If there is a chance of circumventing the dry, mechanical illustrations of democracy found in our textbooks, this might just be one way to go about it.

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