It has been two years now that the St Kabir School started journey towards sustainable environment in true sense with KEDI (Kids for Environmental Development Initiatives). KEDI provides a unique four-year-long module for students from Grade 4 to Grade 8.
Started in 2015, the KEDI initiative provides deeper understanding about environment around us and practically brings change in the perception and action of the students. For St Kabir School which has adopted the motto of “Nurturing Minds for Sustainable Development” KEDI initiative was a step forward to conserve the nature and make a lifelong imprint in young students who are future of our nation.
While adapting to this unique module the school gave a serious thought on the financial part of it and consciously decided not to charge any fee from the students. Right from its inception, the school believed that each child must be taught a holistic approach towards the life and KEDI initiative is complementing the same thought process.
Today there are more than 600 students from school who are exposed to ‘Out of the class’ activities to gain deeper understanding about environment. As the initiative would complete two complete cycles, the outcome of this novel approach is visible. Conserving and caring the nature has become part of day-to-day life instead of resulting into an emotional outburst on World Environment Day. Though the initiative was aimed at connecting children with nature, all the stakeholders of the school are now part of it and becoming responsible environmentalists and that includes even parents as well.
How the Journey Begun
It was in the year 2015 the school management held a meeting with KEDI founder director Hitarth Pandya who had come up with the idea of bringing ‘Nature to School Campus’ instead of the conservative approach of ‘Taking students to Nature’. Though there were no testimonies or documentary records about the success of the module, the school took a bold step of embracing the initiative while knowing the financial repercussions in its budget.
The pilot project started with about 100 students studying in St Kabir Indian International School. But within six months, the outcome of the initiative motivated the school management to include the students from St Kabir School, Gujarat Board as well and today more than 600 students are turning into ‘environmentally educated and aware’ citizens in true sense as part of KEDI initiative.
Bringing Environment out of EVS Books
Beginning from Grade 4, the students travel on a journey which practically shows the nature outside their curriculum books.
Farm to Kitchen
In mere three months after the project started at St Kabir IIS campus, the students grew about 400 kgs of vegetables and today the quantity has reached to close to 4000 kgs. The fact remains that the quantity of vegetable is only a small portion of what the students have gained in terms of knowledge. These fresh seasonal vegetable are given to students to take it home many a times and it is mostly supplied to the school kitchen. Today the students are proud to inform their parents that they are working hard like a farmer who selflessly grows everything for the society. The drastic change in their habits like zero wastage of food, liking for all the vegetables and practical knowledge about growing your own vegetables is witnessed among them.
Lightening up the lives:
Complementing the vision of the school, KEDI initiative also believes in connecting cross section of society with environment. Soil plays an important role in environment and it is also bread and butter for the potters. While there are number of potters in the city, Kantibhai Prajapati a 68 year potter from Kumbhar Wada area in the walled city is certainly a distinct personality. He makes all possible earthen vessels apart from making close to 20,000 deeyas (lamps) every Deepavali. But what sets him apart from rest is he is Divyang.
The decision to invite him to St Kabir Indian International School and share his knowledge on pottery and more importantly his story of fighting against the odds of life was taken. The event turned out to be a perfect platform through which the students learnt pottery lessons from Kantibhai and prepared water bowls for the birds. While Kantibhai was given financial aid equivalent to two months of his regular profits, the bowls which were prepared by the students were also bought for token amount of Rs 10 and the money was handed over to him.
It was recently Kantibhai left for the heavenly abode, his son Dilip Prajapati continues to be part of several functions where he trains the students. The school is in the process of preparing a permanent klin in its campus to make pottery an integral part of it curriculum and support the family and the art.
Bridging the gap between rural and urban lives:
Farming involves day-to-day interaction with nature and that was a strong reason St Kabir decided to embrace an initiative which promises longer engagement of students with nature.
Today KEDI brings in the families of farmers who provide the school with saplings, the organic manure and the flowering plants. Jayanti Solanki (40) and Nikul Solanki (18) are the two persons who are responsible for keeping the entire campus green and often guide the students for the right farming practices. Both of them are from Rampura village about 30 km away from Vadodara. It was realized that the farmers are migrating to cities due to heavy losses they make in farming and indulging into urban gardening which does not give them internal satisfaction but at least earn them money to sustain their livelihood.
Today, both Jayantibhai and Nikul are earning more than what they used to earn as gardeners but most importantly, both are once again connected with their basic profession. While they are paid for their services in KEDI and at the same time they are also given the horticulture development of the school campuses. The design and landscaping concepts are synchronized with what is being taught to students as part of KEDI initiatives.
Both Jayantibhai and Nikul are learning progressive farming practices from the experts in the field who are invited by KEDI and at the same time the students at the school are learning farming practices from both of them.
Several other villagers who provide various services are connected with the initiative with a view to support the agriculture sector and the village system which is fast transforming into urban areas.
Breaking the barriers for literacy:
Moving a step ahead then just adapting to the Right To Education model, St Kabir has taken up the responsibility of educating rural youths as part of KEDI initiative.
A humble beginning is made by educating Nikul Solanki the young boy who imparts his knowledge of farming to school children. After finding it difficult to clear his Secondary Board Exam a couple of years back, Nikul is now being counseled and educated by school teachers at St Kabir School. Once he clears the board exam, his journey of becoming trained and educated farmer from the Department of Horticulture, Government of Gujarat, has also been planned.
This humble beginning is crucial element in KEDI initiative which is looking at a larger picture of educating rural youth who migrate to urban areas creating a huge void in the farming sector.
Project Bird Watching Tower:
To imbibe the habit of respecting and knowing native flora and fauna it is important to see things practically instead of see the same in books or in television. While the conventional approach to bird watching is to take children to bird watching sights around Vadodara, the school decided to make bird watching every day activity. The students at St Kabir School turned out to be a lucky lot as they have an extraordinary patch of urban jungle right behind the school campus. The school decided to erect its own bird watching tower inside the school campus itself. Today the school boasts itself for having one of its kinds of school in Gujarat which has 15 ft high Bird Watching Tower inside the campus.
The tower is erected after consulting the ornithologists and bird watching experts. The two-level tower is made up of best quality material which can sustain the weight of 30 students at a time. While the lower level platform is specially designed to let the students from Nursery to Grade 3 watch the birds, the upper platform is used for students from Grade 4 and above.
The school also procured imported professional binoculars so that the students get the chance of observing birds like professional birders.
The KEDI Open Library:
As the KEDI initiative started witnessing presence of native birds and students have started using the Bird Watching Tower their curiosity to know more about the same birds increased. Once again the school management decided to give impetus to their curiosity by adapting to the concept of ‘Open Library’.
While the school already has a functional library with large number of books in it inside the school building, the KEDI Open Library is a unique concept. Once again it was decided to engage the rural youth in the project.
The team of villagers came to the campus and showed the students how to erect a hut. The hut was built exactly how the villagers built back in their villages. Young girl Rinku Solanki from Rampura village visited the school twice and prepared the floor of the hut using cow dung and soil.
The school then purchased more than 30 books on birds, insects, trees and other similar subjects written by renowned authors like Dr Salim Ali, Valmik Thapar, Arun Pratap Singh. The KEDI library has now become hotspot for the students. As soon as they spot a new bird or an insect or have a curiosity to find out a new plant which they spotted in the school campus, they rush to the open library and refer to the books to get more details.
Conserving each drop of water: Drip Irrigation
It was during one of the radio interviews by the students, they showed their willingness to adapt to all possible means to conserve water. The willingness of students turned into mission for the school. After exploring in detail about drip irrigation the management took the decision to give up the conventional methods to water the plants for both the schools where the KEDI initiative has been initiated. The school awarded the project to Israel’s leading drip irrigation company Rivulis Irrigation.
Today at both the campuses the vegetables are irrigated through drip irrigation system and set an example by conserving the water in large quantity.
Importantly, the learning process for students does not end here only. In the next phase of its implementation, the students will be learning how to make their own micro drip irrigation system for their residential purpose.
St Kabir School – winner of Environmental Excellence Award
Best Green School 2015-16.
Nurturing Minds for Sustainable Development!