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‘Children should also be taught to focus on fairer and more equal societies’

By Manju Rana,

Schools can help build student leaders for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Principal Manju Rana shares her opinion on social action and education.

It is my belief that as epicentres of learning schools have a major role to play in addressing critical global challenges and achieving the SDGs set up by the UN. Through their unique positions in society, schools can transform their learning environments into dynamic hubs of student leadership for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Vasundhara, Ghaziabad, has pledged to create awareness and has already implemented various SDGs in the current and previous academic sessions.

The SDGs promote ‘envisioning’, with students and teachers being able to imagine a better future. The premise is that when we know where we want to go, we will be better able to work out how to get there. We practise an iterative approach to embedding the SDGs that creates the space to reflect and adapt the curriculum to forge stronger links to examine social and environmental justice issues. The activities and initiatives already in progress are linked to SDG 4 (quality education), 6 (clean water and sanitation), and 13 (climate action). We provide our children with a broad, balanced, and experiential curriculum where they are encouraged to develop critical thinking skills, enabling them to critically consider questions of social justice, inequality, and environmental integrity.

SAJS (a certified Green School) is a stakeholder of Rise up4SDGs, a collaborative project, and has been successfully contributing towards eco-awareness, creating climate change awareness, reducing inequality and building more peaceful, prosperous societies. It is an 8-month-long project involving 16 countries that has many international green goals to achieve. We believe it is imperative to teach our children that it is no longer sufficient just to focus on economic growth, but on fairer and more equal societies. For this, the school ideates and implements various activities and events to engage the students in making them aware and responsible citizens and thus, contribute to creating a safer and more prosperous planet.

Our students are engaged in a local project once a year to improve the local environment, such as litter picking, creating a community garden, saving water by not running a tap, and tree plantation campaigns. The aim is to create awareness not only at the grassroots level but also in an international arena. To fulfil this vision, the school encourages participations in various events and conferences, MUNs, etc.

Our students have participated in various events conducted held by UNICEF to share their experiences of activism and ideas on how youth can contribute towards protecting the environment and reducing carbon footprints like Earth Champions workshop, designing the strategic plan of UNICEF India, JagArt1 - designed a book on “Thermal Energy and Volcanoes’ (SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy), JagArt2 – composed four Rap songs which were released on Earth Day.

These events had panellists from across the globe from countries like USA, Canada, Singapore and Australia. They also participated in Global Climate Strike led by climate activist Greta Thunberg to enlighten the nations about extreme climate change. The students won many accolades like PRATYeK AWARD for their advocacy initiatives and being great child advocates for child rights and earth rights, participated in Climategiri, a campaign to resolve issues such as violence against man and nature, as part of the International Movement Fridays for Future and presented a skit and folk dance to invoke action on climate change.

With the support of the management, we have tried to facilitate various initiatives at SAJS to provide quality education and to make sure that learning never stops even during the pandemic by collaborating with industry leaders like Adobe and Microsoft for online teaching tools, and competitive digital assessments.

Virtual exchange programs have also been taken up to give students a wide exposure to international standards of teaching-learning like participation in Microsoft Global Connect through skype sessions.

World’s Scholar Cup – International Tournament at Beijing, China, hosted a 3-Day Virtual Exchange Programme in collaboration with schools from countries like Italy, and USA. The school is also in the process of creating and regular updating of a digital repository of its initiatives and efforts to analyse its far-reaching effects and to create a framework for the future.

Various water saving initiatives like providing clean water and sanitation to everyone, implementing integrated water resource management, etc. have also been enforced.

An all-school encompassing annual project of design thinking embedded in the school curriculum also covers efficient use, conservation, and recycling of water and other resources by the students, not just for individual benefit but for the society at large. As the school progresses ahead, the school management plans to keep contributing to these goals and elevate its efforts to take up new SDGs under its umbrella to reach out to a greater audience for better and far-reaching impact.

As a principal of a learning community committed to social and environmental justice, I am inspired by both my students and teachers alike in their dedication and determination for social action. The leadership challenge is to maintain our focus on what we think matters in education.

Manju Rana, principal-cum-director, Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Vasundhara, Ghaziabad. The views expressed are personal.

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