For a week, Shreejit Shetty, 14, saw water from a gutter overflow and collect in his building compound. The Class 8 student also heard his parents talk about his neighbours getting infected by malaria. He called the civic body’s helpline and complained about the clogged drain. Within two days the drain had been cleared.
“All my neighbours came over and said ‘good job’,” said the student of OLPS High School, Chembur.
“I studied in school that malaria is caused by mosquitoes breeding in stagnant water. I asked my teachers about who I could contact to solve the problem and they helped me,” he added.
Shetty is among the growing breed of students who are aware of their civic responsibilities. They no longer throw wrappers and packets out of cars or leave taps running. Instead, they have installed spit bins in their school and have begun sweeping their classrooms.
At Matunga Premier School, when the cleaner started skipping duty, a bunch of 13-year-olds picked up brooms and swept their classroom every day. “Now, we have asked the cleaner not to come and we do our own cleaning. Even other students don’t litter because they realise their classmates will have to clean it up,” said Deepika Popat, one of the six students who sweep their classroom.
“This generation of children has a heightened sense of awareness. We are sometimes taken aback by their questions on governance and rights,” said Vinodini Lulla, Mumbai coordinator, Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness, a non-profit that works with schools to create active citizens. Currently, the NGO works with 30 schools in the city.
Parents, too, are amazed by their children’s interest in their surroundings. Kimaaya Thakkar and her classmates stand outside their school, JB Petit High School for Girls, with a large tub and persuade students to empty their water bottles on their way out of school.
“Students usually throw water out of the bus or at each other. Kimaaya felt that the water could be used to water plants in the school and began this campaign. I was so surprised to learn that my 13-year-old daughter was so aware of her environment,” said her mother Kavita.