Activists often rue that the younger generation is largely indifferent to the problems they encounter in their own neighbourhoods.
To buck the trend, a civic movement in Mumbai is creating an entire generation of citizens who are not only aware of their rights and duties, but are also proactive in making a difference. Catching them young, the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness (CMCA) has been giving civic lessons in schools since 2004. In just a decade, the movement is running in 32 schools and counting.
Once every week, CMCA volunteers hold a session in each school where students get a comprehensive lesson in everyday civic issues. These sessions are attended by Class 8 students.
“We chose this grade because children are prepared to learn about problems and their solutions, and are not yet burdened with the taxing syllabus and exams of senior classes,” said Vinodini Lulla, who started the Mumbai chapter of CMCA. The movement has its roots in Bengaluru where it opened in 2000.
As part of the sessions, students participate in fun activities, such as debates and discussions, take neighbourhood walks, understand problems through statistics and case studies, and are even shown documentaries on the life of rag pickers and manual labourers. “The idea is to educate them about the real world. Sadly, our education system is such that it hardly instill values and a good citizenship sense among students,” said Lulla.
The efforts seem to be paying off already, she said. Recalling an incident, Lulla said Ramesh, a student of Juhu Gandhigram Mumbai Public School, made a complaint to the BMC helpline 1916, for a missing cover over a drain on the main road. After a few days, the drain was covered. Another student of a Colaba school used the helpline to complain about garbage near her home in Colaba. “After a few follow ups, the entire lane was cleaned. Since then, the student told me the garbage was cleared regularly,” said Lulla.
“We have designed a curriculum for an entire year. There is a dedicated CMCA class in a week. There are no exams at the end of the year. The real activism we see among students is our achievement,” said Lulla.