A chance to clean up

  • Sporadic clean-up forays not enough for cleaner communities

Dec 28, 2018-

On Wednesday, hundreds of students—clad in masks and wielding brooms—stormed Arniko Highway from different inner roads between the Manohara River to Radha Radha with one aim: clean up their municipality. The students, who represent 25 different public and private schools, partook in the integrated Arniko Highway Cleanup Campaign initiated by Madhyapur Thimi Municipality (MTM) in coordination with Suryabinayak Municipality and others. Covering more than 4.5 km of the highway, the herd of students rummaged through plastic, fished out hundreds of noodle packagings, and managed to remove an impressive 10 tonnes of solid waste. 

This is not the first time students have taken to the streets in order to clean other people’s mess. Time and again, schools organise such clean-up campaigns as part of their extra-curricular activities. In a way, this is a good initiative as it teaches the students a hands-on lesson on civic virtue. When learning extends beyond the classroom, it helps students encounter a whole different world and engage in multiple levels of learning. But at the same time, it is also important to ensure that students’ interests are not being manipulated by external agendas. And that such acts should not be limited to mere tokenism. 

Oftentimes, clean-up campaign initiatives are claimed by municipalities, district heads, or larger organisations as a product of their initiation. Ram Subedi, the principal of OM Gyan Mandir Secondary School, initially wanted to participate in a clean-up campaign as part of his school’s Environmental Science and Social Studies courses. The municipality later approached him with the plan and they agreed to join other schools. While MTM’s intervention was clearly well-intentioned as it aimed to reach a wider group of students, it is important for future campaigns to be more student-led. Student voices and leaders should be given the central role not only during the clean-up process but also in organising, planning and advertising these campaigns. 

It’s clear that youths are willing to go above and beyond—even if that means having to confront freezing temperatures—to clean up their municipalities. It is important to tap into this abundant energy in ways that reflect a genuine, student-centered approach. By involving more students in the planning process, clean-up campaigns can be made more sustainable. Sporadic events will not help contribute much to the cause in the long term. Harnessing youth energy towards finding more sustainable solutions may be more productive than sporadic clean-up forays. Schools and local level authorities both have a significant role to play when it comes to setting examples. Imparting civic sense and envisioning a society that is clean and healthy demands collective and continued effort. 

Published: 28-12-2018 07:34

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