City Pulse

Civic change no child's play? Think again

August 08, 2014 By Team ICMYC
A bunch of 8th grade students epitomize citizen participation and how! They may not have access to technology but do possess a civic sense stronger than adults who belong to economically and socially progressive circles.
Harish, Dhanush and Nitin, three 13-year-old students from Sri Saraswathi Vidya Mandira, are like any other kids their age. Whilst being extremely mischievous in their class, these children are equally observant of the social and civic issues they are surrounded by. Their apathy towards the city’s civic authorities was no different than most of us citizens. They took their representatives lackadaisical attitude for granted and assumed that all their cries would fall on deaf ears.
A giant pile of garbage adjacent to the school was causing a great deal of trouble to students and staff alike; the stench emanating from this made it difficult for children to sit through classes and more importantly, students were exposed to the risk of contracting various harmful diseases such as dengue, malaria etc.
As a matter of fact, several attempts by the school and residents proved to be futile as the authorities did little or nothing to clear the mess.
Sujata, their Bala Janaagraha facilitator and teacher, was instrumental in changing the outlook of these children.
Two of the boys got their father and uncle respectively to exercise their influence as ‘adults’ to send letters out to the local BBMP official, demanding a safer and cleaner environment.
What followed is testimony to the change in the attitude of these young citizens. The garbage pile was cleared the very next day, along with the road being leveled and ready to be tarred. The success of their attempt only makes the more
“We citizens dirty our own city. We must take responsibility of keeping it clean, even if it means we have to demand better garbage disposal facilities from the BBMP”, says Dhanush. They also went around the area spreading awareness on the importance of waste segregation.
Although many other children in the area are equally aware of their rights and duties, they are often inhibited from exercising these rights due to their parents not being encouraging enough.
Dhanush, Harish and Nitin raised concerns about the lack of basic amenities such as parks and playgrounds, considering how crucial physical activity is for kids in their developing years.
When asked what they plan on doing to demand better playgrounds and parks, they cited that the apathy of adults mars the enthusiasm of these young blooded citizens.
But, they aren’t the ones to give up.
They have identified various issues in their neighbourhood, for which they will personally approach civic authorities.
They plan on drafting letters asking for regular garbage collection system in the area, along with better roads.
Children, if moulded well and given the right direction will certainly help shape the future of our city. For which, the right amount of encouragement from parents and teachers is crucial. Can we guarantee our children the freedom to take charge of issues around them, only to enable the rest of us citizens to break out of the apathy that makes us ignore our city that we dearly love?  Let’s begin by taking a cue from these little champions of change.
By Juwairia Mehkri