Early lessons in waste management and sustainable living in Kerala schools

A programme that teaches waste management and sustainability in school devised by a Finland-based start-up

January 16, 2021 05:41 pm | Updated 06:23 pm IST - Kochi:

A GreenCity session in progress at Global Public School, Kochi

A GreenCity session in progress at Global Public School, Kochi

Class VII and VIII students of Global Public School, Kochi, had a unique project during the academic session 2019-2020. They had to create a working model of waste management in the school.

Until then their knowledge was theoretical, derived from text books. But now they had to rethink how they saw waste, and understand waste — the kinds, segregation and disposal. They worked closely with janitorial staff, to understand how the system worked and came up with their suggestions.

Guiding them was GreenCity, a programme designed to encourage school children to understand waste management and sustainability. This is one of the few such hands-on programmes to be introduced in Kerala schools.

It was piloted at Global Public School and The Village International School, Thodupuzha in November 2019. The six-week classroom programme focusses on creating awareness about the problem of waste, developing empathy towards waste pickers, and suggesting solutions that they can work towards.

“Usually these topics are limited to theory mostly in Science textbooks, with no real time practice. With this programme, our students were able to get hands-on training in waste management. The children are in their formative years, so there is enthusiasm and interest. It makes children aware of the environmental impact of waste,” says Sreekumar Kartha, principal, Global Public School.

Unnikrishnan Sreedhara Kurup

Unnikrishnan Sreedhara Kurup

The programme was created by Finland-based start-up Venture Village, set up by two Malayalis — Anup Jinadevan and Unnikrishnan Sreedhara Kurup — who have been living there, in Helsinki and Espoo respectively, for the past 10 years. Based on feedback from schools in Kerala about areas that need focus, they worked with Finnish experts to create the programme. They were helped by Munich-based Malayali research scholar, Dr. Raisa Sheriff.

Jinadevan, a dentist, working in the Helsinki City Health Service, is doing doctoral research in Social Policy at Helsinki University and Kurup is an engineer/entrepreneur pursuing a Masters degree in Education Entrepreneurship at Oulu University.

Anup Jinadevan

Anup Jinadevan

The trigger for the environment-connected idea was the floods of 2018 that ravaged parts of Kerala. Coordinating relief work, raising funds and reconstruction left the two friends wanting to reconnect meaningfully with their home State. Looking for a sustained engagement, they decided on education as a means of moulding the next generation of the country’s leaders which led to the formation of Venture Village, of which GreenCity is a product. It deals with topics such as waste management and sustainability, which requires physical classes for hands-on training has now been adapted for the online formate due to the pandemic.

A crucial part of the next level — FutureCity — is ‘setting up a city’, which is a physical lesson also for the same grades. As part of it they are taught about financial literacy, digital economy, working life, and entrepreneurship needed to run a city. Although it can be taught virtually, “we choose not to as it will not be as effective, as the chidlren need to communicate and interact with each other in a physical space,” says Kurup. For now, only online sessions of GreenCity is being taught to the target group comprising students of classes VI to VIII.

A teacher appointed by Venture Village works with an in-charge ‘mentor teacher’ at the partner school to implement the programme. A team of project coordinators looks after the operations. “We want a teacher who shares the passion for pro-environment activities as a mentor. They would be able to motivate the children to finish the course,” Kurup says.

He and Jinadevan pitched their idea to schools as a ‘pro-environment, attitude building programme’ while keeping their product different from other academics-oriented edu-tech players.

They currently work with 20-odd schools across the State. These include Devi Vilasam UP School, Thazhathu Kulakkada, Sree Sankara Vidyapeetam (Mattanur), St. Gregorios Senior Secondary School (Chengannur), Vidya Vikas Public School (Vaikom), Syndesmos Public School (Parumala), and Christ Nagar Higher Secondary School (Thiruvananthapuram) among others.

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