Following an announcement by the Delhi government’s directorate of education (DoE), making it mandatory for Delhi government schools to hold information sessions on solutions to the air pollution menace, My Right to Breathe (MRTB) and Help Delhi Breathe, a campaign by Purpose, organized a series of training sessions as part of the Champions for Climate Action School Programme. The first of these sessions was held just before Diwali.
This programme aims at creating the next generation of Indians who think through an environmental lens and use their own behaviour and attitudes to influence the future of India’s climate story. This is the first stage in increasing awareness about air pollution, as the threat to public health in Delhi increases because of air pollution. It is more important than ever to ensure that students understand the sources of, and solutions to, poor air quality and that this information is taught in an engaging way that highlights the issues in the context of Delhi, and India as a whole.
Manish Sharma, trainee teacher who attended the sessions, said, “It was a highly beneficial training session by My Right to Breathe and Help Delhi Breathe for the benefit of the teachers and their students. This was a big stepping stone towards creating future youth ambassadors for climate change.”
The DoE has given MRTB and Help Delhi Breathe a written mandate to hold air pollution information sessions on:
- The fundamental causes and sources of air pollution
- How to monitor air quality
- Health impact of air pollution
- Solutions for clean air
The order had been sent to 27 government schools in Delhi. There are six ‘schools of excellence’ identified by the Delhi government and 21 Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalayas (RPVVs). Teachers will be trained in how to incorporate these themes into the curriculum for senior school students based on the subjects they teach and the kinds of activities they could carry out in class. While many schools have carried out individual activities and workshops on air pollution in the past, this is the first large-scale initiative to include the subject in government school curriculums.
EnvironMentality is the key
Dr Amrita Behl, an educationist leading the school outreach for My Right to Breathe, said: “How do you create a mindset of ‘EnvironMentality’ in students, some of whom are going to be future decision-makers and lead the nation? Our teachers’ training sessions focus on engaging teachers — whether in maths, social studies, science, or the languages — to incorporate key environmental concepts into their subjects, so enabling each student to think of environment as a whole and not in a subject silo.”
Another person who attended the training, Shikha, said, “This workshop has made a great impact on my mind about curbing pollution and finding a solution for it… Every change starts from oneself. I’ll start with myself, my home and my workplace to increase green cover to curb pollution.”
My Right to Breathe and Help Delhi Breathe have collaborated with several experts for these training sessions — air quality monitoring companies, such as Kaiterra and Ambee and environmental expert organizations, such as Chintan, which focus on responsible waste systems, besides health practitioners and educationists around Delhi. Help Delhi Breathe and My Right to Breathe are both community-led coalitions that advocate clean air policies and action and for the ‘right to clean air for all citizens’.
‘We should help NextGen come up with new solutions to fight pollution’
‘Schools are ecosystems where children acquire basic knowledge; we’re shaping future artists, politicians, researchers and civil servants of India. It’s important to protect them from the hazards of air pollution and equip them with knowledge to counteract it. My experience with these children has shown they’re intelligent and creative. All we need to do is focus their energy and creativity towards these issues and I believe they’ll come up with newer and more innovative solutions, themselves’
- Kritica Mahajan, campaigner at Purpose
At the first teachers’ training session, representatives from 27 schools attended the meet at Bloom Public School. This was followed by an information session with 300 senior school students. Further student and teacher meets are lined up for peer-led training sessions. These sessions will address common myths and misconceptions about air pollution, including the helplessness many people feel about Delhi’s air pollution. By arming students with information about what they can do and what their government can do, this campaign gives students the tools to fight for their health and the health of their communities.
As Kamlesh Gupta, another trainee, pointed out, “We shouldn’t only inform our students about their right to breathe clean air, but also teach them about their duty of finding solutions at individual levels.”
The next session was an information session for students, held at the Kalkaji School for Excellence on Saturday, October 26. For more information on the Champions for Climate Action School programme, follow My Right to Breathe and Help Delhi Breathe.