A teacher teaches rural kids to make 'eco-bricks', become self-reliant & protect environment
A primary school teacher in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur is motivating his students to collect plastic waste from their houses and make eco-bricks. The teacher also launches plantation drives and empowers senior students by inviting them to conduct tuition classes of younger students. Details here.
Laraib Fatima Warsi 17 Jun 2023 2:35 PM GMT
Calling it a day after returning to her home from the upper primary school where she works as a cook, it was just another evening for Meera Kumari, a 45-year-old resident of Gopalpur village in Uttar Pradesh who then began the usual cleaning and dusting.
However, the humdrum of her daily chores was cut short when her 10-year-daughter interrupted her when she was about to dispose of the plastic waste in the dustbin.
“She said, ‘Amma, from now on, please don’t throw away the plastic trash in the bin’. When I questioned her about what she wanted me to do with the plastic waste instead, I got an answer which I had simply not expected,” Kumari told Gaon Connection.
“She elaborated that her school teacher had launched a cleanliness drive to make the village plastic and pollution free and I was amazed to know that her teacher is teaching the students to make eco-bricks out of plastic waste. It was a day I won’t forget, I felt that my daughter is growing up to become a responsible and an aware adult,” the mother added.
The teacher whose environment-friendly measures are being applauded by the parents and the students alike in the village is Pankaj Kumar who has been teaching at the Upper Primary School Semri since August, 2018.
Also Read: Plastic Wastes — Rural India's Trash Bomb
“We use snack wrappers, plastic bags, chips packets, and one week’s worth of plastic waste to make ‘eco-bricks’ out of it. We stuff this plastic waste into plastic bottles which are now abundant in the village. These bricks are used as tree-guards as of now and they help protect the plants and ensure their optimum growth,” Kumar told Gaon Connection.
When asked about what motivated Kumar to make students conserve plastic, he stated that it was after he came across a YouTube video about a year back in which he saw the creative use of plastic bottles to construct houses, tree guards, mats, table, and pots that he tried to implement the same idea in his village.
“Ultimately, I also want the kids and even the village administration to use these bricks in construction activities,” he added.
So far, as many as 100 students taught by Kumar in the Gopalpur village are actively involved in the production of these plastic bricks. Also, these children have surfaced as agents of change in the village as they convince their parents and the rural community at large to conserve plastic waste and contribute it to them once a week.
Apart from training these children to make plastic bricks, Kumar is also engaged in bringing about a positive change in the village by promoting tree plantation, education of underprivileged students and extending his teaching beyond his designated classroom in the primary school.
“My mission is that in a year, I should educate 100 kids, plant 100 trees and crowdfund for 100 kids from underprivileged communities to ensure their education expenses.
Kumar teaches students from class first to class fifth and over 120 students from three batches come to the school and learn Hindi, English and Mathematics.
Empowering village kids to become self reliant
Through his Gorakhpur-based non-governmental organisation named Chandransh Foundation, Kumar strives to redefine rural education for underprivileged children with a belief that education is the only ‘vehicle that can drive the poor people of his village out of poverty’.
The teacher has trained several of his former girl students to volunteer for conducting tuition classes for the underprivileged children in the Gopalpur village.
Rani Vishwakarma, a student of class 12th, is one such volunteer who teaches Hindi, English and Mathematics to the students.
While speaking to Gaon Connection, she said, “I aspire to become a teacher in future and teach the kids to be a better person when they grow up. It gives me immense pleasure to see them learn new things. I finish my school and then volunteer to teach the kids and get a remuneration of Rs. 1,500 for my tuition.”
Meanwhile, talking about the need for girls to be able to afford their minor expenses, Kumar said, “Spending money on yourself gives you financial freedom and makes your inner self happy. It gives girls the autonomy and the power of decision making”.
“Sometimes I buy clothes and cosmetics for myself; however, mostly the money goes in paying my school fees,” Vishwakarma said.
Ansil Chaurasia, a student who has just passed her class 12th is another such volunteer at the Chandransh Foundation and actively volunteers to teach the underprivileged kids from the village.
While talking to Gaon Connection, she said, “I love giving tuitions to these children and it fills me with joy to see them learn something new daily.”
When asked what she does with her remuneration she said, “I am saving the money in my piggy bank for a bag that I wish to buy and apart from this sometimes I also buy chocolates as I love eating them,” she added.
Villagers proud of their ‘teacher’
This initiative has not only made the kids lead the way to be more mindful about saving plastic waste but also the elders of the village to not disregard these kids’ advice. Also, locals come together in the drive to collect waste to make ‘eco bricks’.
Sanjay Kumar, a 34-year-old, a worker at a petrol pump has three kids who go to the same school where Kumar teaches
“ When my kids come back they say, ‘papa let us collect all the household waste so that we can make more eco bricks that help us protect the environment’, it really makes me proud. I like what the teacher is doing,” he told Gaon Connection.
“I think this awareness drive by Pankaj ji is great as it has helped us to keep our environment clean. Since this drive was started by the teacher and the kids, people in our village are mindful of not littering around and they also want to plant more trees, says Chandrika, a 61-year-old resident from Gopalpur village told Gaon Connection.