If you listen carefully, that’s a sound which echoes in quiet, across the community of Yerwada. Despite suffering the most in terms of disproportionate water supply, the residents of Yerwada seem unaware of the pressing need for water conservation.
My name is Nishit Shukla. I’m a teacher to a class of 35 crazy 9th grade kids in Rashmi School in Yerwada, who are now determined to change the mindset of people towards the need for intelligent water usage.
It all began, when I went on a family trip to Andaman & Nicobar islands. I was surrounded with a view of the calm clear blue sea. We were welcomed by bright and sunny weather’s monotony broken by an intermittent rain shower.
There was a peaceful backwater river, and streams that meandered through the lush green islands. I was constantly surrounded by water and I couldn’t help but think about my kids back home. At that time, Maharashtra was going through one of worst droughts in the history and Yerwada was one of the regions facing the brunt. I knew something needed to be done, something which is driven by the kids themselves. And that’s when I set the pot to boil for DROP!
The above pie chart is a survey which I took in my class to see understand the water supply situation in my kids’ houses.
Today, project DROP is a student driven organization with a vision to bring about awareness of intelligent water usage in Yerwada. Here’s a story of how it came into being. I first created a year-long plan that integrated English and Math which would build skills and mindset to bring forth independent leaders. But this wasn’t enough, because unless students realized the existence of the problem and actually feel the gravity of the situation the project won’t have a lasting impact. That’s why the very first task that the class did together was to create a comprehensive questionnaire which was later used to map out the water usage landscape of Yerwada. The entire class came together and after a week of debate and discussion, we drew a list of questions for the community. The class was then divided into four groups depending on the part of the community they lived in. Each of these groups spent a good week going door to door surveying each house within the community. Our goal was to survey a thousand residents but the students’ limitless energy and enthusiasm overshot the target.
We ended up surveying more than 1400 houses!
Initially many of the students like Krishna and Bharatdas were hesitant and shy when it came to talking with complete strangers. Bharatdas came to me after everyone left and said ‘Bhaiya logo se baat karna bohot difficult hai, dar lagta hai’. I was ecstatic to hear this. And I’ll tell you why! It wasn’t just Bharatdas but many of my kids were really stepping outside their comfort zones. And, I told them to keep pushing themselves because I knew they’ll get better with practice. In the end, it was such enriching sight to see them going door to door being greeted by strangers (many a time, not so nicely) for an entire week. What was even more spectacular was just the growth they showed over the week when it came to people skills or strategizing to meet a goal for that particular day. For instance, one of the teams decided to take surveys while wearing the school uniform because it showed authenticity.
Some of the kids had to face the tackled the lack of trust that lurks within the society. Chirag and Tarun were questioned and yelled at when they went to a particular shop to ask survey questions. Despite all the challenges, these students went out of their way to get the job done and they also developed a deeper understanding of the what the actual problem with usage of water looks like in the community. They realized the disparity that existed within the community where a certain region received an ample supply of water and whereas the other hardly received a couple of hours of supply every two days. I was glad to see that an issue that wasn’t looked at as critical by kids then, was now felt, understood, and analyzed after they surveyed their communities first hand.
Post the survey, the class divided itself into four departments namely Research and Development, Analytics, Marketing, and Logistics. Yes, the classroom was now working as a full-fledged organization. Briefly speaking, R&D focussed on the construction of a Rainwater harvesting system and Marketing handled the publicity & promoting the cause of water conservation. The analytics department worked on creating a comprehensive report using data analytics based on the survey that the class recently completed. And the logistics department which looked after all the logistical and material requirements for the department and analyzed the performance of each of these groups. Initially, the students found it difficult to understand their roles and understand the ‘why’ behind their roles and departments. But as they started working on their respective tasks they started gaining a lot of perspective and understanding through their projects.
Presently, the R&D department is in the middle of the construction of the rainwater harvesting system. Every day after school, the department stayed for back for at least an hour after school and diligently work on the construction. At the same time, the marketing team is working on a nukkad natak which they’ll perform in another school next month. The street play will be about water conservation and save water through or more dramatic and entertaining medium.
So far, I’ve learned immensely from this entire experience, I’ve seen first-hand the transformational powers of holistic education. I’ve understood the power of the collective i.e. goals that people can achieve when they work together. I’ve also developed an immense sense of respect for people who run social organization and the sheer amount of difficulties they have to face.
In the end, I just want to say that just knowing about the existence of a problem and complaining about it while watching the news over dinner is a waste of time is going to you or the rest of universe nowhere. If you really believe that something needs to change or fixed then stand up and take actions towards it. By this, I don’t mean quit your day job and dedicate your entire life towards a cause (that’d be awesome, though) but instead, take small consistent baby steps towards something that you really believe. Two things will happen through this process; one, you’ll develop a deeper sense of understanding and empathy for the victims who are facing the brunt of the suffering. Second you’ll develop an acute awareness and gratitude for the privileges that you’ve received throughout your life.
This story was written by Nishit Shukla, a 2015 Teach For India fellow. You reach out to him at his email address here to extend your support. Teach For India is accepting new applications for their fellowship program until 21st March 2017, click here to know more.
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