Young Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg recently made waves speaking up against the inactions of major governments, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP26. In India, a band of student journalists drive change through the stories they publish for Yocee.in, a portal by and for children.
As part of a project initiated by France-based non-profit Global Youth & News Media, some of these cub reporters’ stories received global recognition and were showcased on the platform till COP26 concluded.
Their assignment: profiling teenagers or worthy adults, who teenagers would admire, and who have success in work that takes people closer to saving the planet. One important criterion in selecting people was that the story should take a “solutions-journalism approach”.
The Global Times , New Delhi, a weekly student newspaper circulated in the Amity Group of Schools and Amity University, was the only other Indian participant from India.
Five stories of YOCEe’s student reporters were showcased under the project ‘Climate Profiles 1’. Thanks to the pandemic, the personalities included people from other cities interviewed via digital platforms.
Sanjitha S, a class XII student of Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School, featured a teen from Gurugram, Aditya Mukarji, who has been campaigning against the use of plastic. “I read about him and wanted to interview him but tracking him down was not easy. It took me a few weeks to get his contact details but the effort was worth it,” says Sanjitha, adding that the youngster has been vocal about not using plastic since the age of 14. “His persistence and follow-ups with hotels made many of them give up straws,” says Sanjitha.
Maitreyi Aravindan from Bengaluru chose a video story to showcase how her apartment community conserved water by investing in rainwater harvesting systems.
“One lesson we learn as student journalists is to look for stories around us and water is a topic that concerns most of us, so I wanted to show that my apartment had an example for others to follow. Venturing out during the pandemic was a strict no-no, so choosing this idea came in handy. I just had to knock on the doors of our committee members for the interview,” says Maitreyi, a student of class VIII.
Sthuthi Arun did an audio news report featuring a 12th grader who helps maintain the rooftop garden at her school in Chennai.
Hussain Topiwala pursues ideas that touch a chord with him. “Naren Villuri’s story inspired me a lot. He collects seeds from apartments, schools and offices and distributes them to nurseries, farmers and seed banks. That is an amazing initiative by a 10-year-old that had to be told,” says the class XI student who plans to study literature.
This is not the first time that YOCee’s young reporters have got global acclaim. Some of them have given their submissions for the previous editions of the ‘World Teenage Reporting Project’, again organised by Global Youth & News Media.
The first edition of the project, in early 2020, focused on the untold stories of teenagers who were making a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second edition challenged them to profile their peers who were champions of tolerance.
Medha R’s piece on Nalandaway children’s choir group coming together to raise funds for COVID-19 relief crossed 50,000 views in the newsroom’s website. “I think it is important to promote your story, so I asked the NGO to share with all their members,” says the high school student.
So, how has reporting and writing groomed these teenagers? They are good at striking a conversation and are well informed about what is happening around them. Most of them read a lot and find writing relaxing amidst the pressure of excelling in academics.
Some of them have started to campaign for a green earth in their own ways. Shalini Ramesh is trying to push her apartment to segregate waste at source, having been inspired by an interview with a waste management company. “After writing about a cycling group that delivered essential supplies during COVID-19, I had a short stint with an NGO where I helped through content creation and by updating details on oxygen cylinders,” says the 10th grader.
Daya LM says she has learnt why contacts and networking are important for a journalist. “We have to submit two stories a month and when I am nowhere close to finding an idea, I go to my mom, she is full of ideas and contacts,” says the Class VII student. One important lesson Sanjitha learnt is to accept rejections. “Not every story falls on your lap and sometimes when people make you wait it is a sign that they may not be keen and so learn to take it,” says Sanjitha who wants to become a doctor.
Revathi R, founder-editor, YOCee, says by reporting age-appropriate news stories these teenagers are understanding how their peers in other countries report. “As it was going in a global platform, we were encouraging others in the group to read and seek feedback about their articles, and that became another learning experience,” says Revathi, who started this platform 15 years ago on November 14.
Applications for YOCee's student reporter programme is announced in the month of April/May every year, and 25 students are selected. For details, write to email@example.com