Picture a messy home with kids frolicking all over, leaving the home in a general state of disarray. You will most likely imagine the parents of those kids doing the clean-up, while affectionately looking at the children having fun.
But can you imagine that act of cleaning up the home as an opportunity for those kids to learn something? Well, the government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) does think that way!
“When we encourage a child to take care of his/her surroundings, it not only automatically ‘programs’ the child to respect his/her surroundings, it also makes them always try to keep it clean. They also get to learn that a community problem is ultimately an individual’s problem as well,” avers Vijay Kiran Anand, Director General, School Education, UP.
Taking a cue from the Japanese practice of Gakko Soji, which in simple terms means cleaning the school, the government of UP has come up with a novel initiative. Beginning today, government school children in India’s most populous State will now be encouraged to clean their own classrooms and toilets in order to promote the cause of cleanliness, hygiene, and dignity of labour.
Days after the UP-CM Yogi Adityanath, while addressing a gathering during an event to felicitate meritorious students on Teachers Day, spoke about the relevance of cleanliness in schools and how children and teachers should together ensure that schools are kept clean in order to not only promote health and hygiene but to also ensure a conducive learning environment, the Basic Education department came up with this campaign, titled My School Clean School.
“We had originally planned this prior to the covid pandemic, but it was stalled for obvious reasons. After the pandemic, there was this new problem of staff crunch and upkeep of schools. Experience has shown that the involvement of children in this process can result in fantastic results not only in terms of the look and feel of a school but also in terms of the personality development of children. They get to build a sense of responsibility towards their acts, they realize the importance of teamwork and also get to learn about the social stigma associated with cleaning. They will eventually work as ambassadors against it and will learn to appreciate and respect those who do this work for them,” explains Anand.
Gakko Soji, or the cleaning tradition of Japan, finds its roots in Buddhist teachings, that explains the importance of keeping our surroundings and body clean. Also, there is scientific evidence to suggest that children in clean classrooms tend to be happier than those in messy ones.
So, as part of this tradition, students in Japan clean up their schools themselves. They do it for about 15 minutes at the end of the day. It helps them show gratitude to people and objects that enable learning. Also, if students are made responsible for their own mess, they are less likely to make it in the first place and will eventually show respect for their surroundings.
Likewise, in UP, it will all be made a structured process involving teachers and groups of children so that there is no unfair work allocation. The Director General spoke about the cleaning of toilets as a key focus area. He clarified, “Children will not be forced for it and it will all be voluntary. But let us not forget that we anyway clean our toilets at home. So, this should rather be looked at as part of the learning process, wherein a child grows up to be a socially responsible and productive individual.”
This is a welcome step and should emerge as a best practice for other States to emulate and promote.
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