Schools take pollution seriously, kids say no to crackers


NEW DELHI: WHY do more and more Delhi children want a cracker free Diwali? Not because of the ‘Say no to Crackers’ posters. Crackers became uncool after schools made Environmental Sciences (EVS), once an extracurricular subject, a formal part of their curriculum.

Schools took up F.VS after the Delhi government’s Environment Department started the Eco Club project two years ago. These clubs in over a 1,000 government and private schools are producing tangible results, Naini Jeyaseelan, Secretary of the Department, said. "Last year, there was considerable decrease in the use of crackers and the air pollution level fell," she said. There are even plans to make EVS a separate subject in the board exams.

One has to visit schools like Sanskriti, Vasant Valley or the Shriram School to see how serious they are about EVS. The schools have fixed syllabi on environmental issues from nursery to Class VIII. Students preparing for their boards don’t study EVS in detail but they have to do projects.

Air Force Bal Bharati doesn’t teach environment as a subject but its Eco Club does projects on crackers and polybags. The Delhi Public School has tied up with Bharat Petroleum and organised a rally as part of a campaign for a crackerless Diwali.

"All children will not stop buying crackers but they won’t proudly announce how much money they spent on them. Peer pressure makes them feel guilty," a teacher said.

In an informal discussion at the Sanskriti School, senior students sat with the teachers and talked about how easy or difficult it was to give up crackers.

"Doesn’t it at least provide some people with a source of living?" asked one student. "My cousin had an asthma attack .luring Diwali when I was in class VII. I never bought crackers after that." said another.

Dedicated teachers, 40minute periods every week till class VIII, presenting visiting dignitaries with potted plants instead of bouquets, selling recycled products for charity -its all part of the campaign in schools.

"I can see so many tangible changes. We don’t have to put up those ‘Don’t pluck Flowers’ signs in the school garden any more," Gowri Ishwaran, Sanskriti’s principal, said.

Ishwaran admits that some part of the initiative is because it fashionable to he eco-conscious.

"Even if it is fashionable, it wouldn’t work if we weren’t serious about it," said principal of Delhi Public School, Noida, Rita Kapoor.

Joining-the bandwagon trend, however, makes the campaign halfhearted, environmental and educationist Akhil Chandra said.

"It is not enough to have biology teachers double up as EVS teachers. We need qualified people," he said. Schools have not invested in getting qualified professionals.

"Otherwise, what is the point of just making toys with recycled paper?" He said that the subject should be linked with every aspect of students lives.

However, one cannot deny is that a beginning has been made. Teachers argue about whether CBSE should make it a formal examination subject or not. "Children are learning while having fun. We cannot add exams and evaluation to it," EVS teacher Nita Ganguly said.