The Teachers and students at the MYP level at Neev Academy – Encore have been working in visioning and conceptualizing on how we could come up with a community-based, socially relevant Initiative which could make a genuine impact in the lives of people of Bangalore and the possibility of real-world experiences and the rich learning.
After long deliberations amongst the students and teachers at Neev – MYP, the Neev Lake Initiative (NLI, for short!) was conceived. The Initiative was born in response to the sad state of affairs of almost all the major lakes of Bangalore. During the Units dealing with Eutrophication of water and the impact of Urbanization on common resources of Bangalore, the students spoke passionately about the pain they experienced whenever they crossed the extremely polluted Varthur Lake and the humongous amounts of chemical froth it generates. The students narrated horror stories of how the lake surface once caught fire and burnt for hours, spewing noxious fumes. The students (and teachers!) spoke of the general apathy amongst the Government bodies and how “Nothing happens”...”They are not doing anything to save the Lakes” “Nobody cares anymore”.
This scepticism and helplessness was something the students may have, unwittingly, picked from the general atmosphere. Some of the teachers started asking “Who is ‘they’?”... “Who should care?”The teachers persisted till the kids came to this realization that they, as the citizens of tomorrow, have a huge stake in the issue. Very gingerly, the students started asking what could ‘we kids’ do about it. That was the moment ‘The Neev Lake Initiative’ was truly born!
Soon, things started to stir and move with a group of teachers going on a Recce to the Bellandur lake and engaging with the community. The less-privileged families around the Lake were the hardest-hit by the deteriorating state of the Bellandur lake. Some parts of the community reaped the benefits of the growing economy and have prospered. The lake was really dirty. But the question was...how dirty? Could we measure the levels of pollution? How are the Communities affected? When did these problems start? How did the Lake originate?
- The teachers evolved strategies to understand the problems:
- Exploring the historical origins and cultural myth-making of Bellandur lake.
- Engaging with local communities through field visits and understand them through ‘participant observation’.
- Field trips and scientific investigations on the Water quality, lake ecology and causes of degradation of Bellandur Lake.
- Engaging with communities using Art and Theatre as medium of expression and communication.
- Community outreach programmes in collaboration with local communities.
As they say “Many men talk a good game...few deliver”. We at MYP wanted to walk the talk and soon organized an exploratory visit along with the entire MYP cohort, including students and teachers to The Bellandur Lake site.
The students first visited the up-coming Yemalur Campus of Neev and saw how the locals were siphoning off the ground-water from the aquifers for commercial purposes. They also witnessed how the raja kaluves (storm drains) were connected with pipes carrying sewage and the consequent pollution of the lake.
The students then visited a local government primary school in order to have a first-hand understanding of the children there. The teachers helped break the ice and before we knew it...the kids started actively engaging with each other and our kids picked up the basic rudiments of the Kannada language. Soon, a wonderful game was organized by Pradeep, our enterprising Arts Teacher, simply called “IN...OUT” and the effect was electric. Soon everybody was participating in the game and our kids forgot their new surroundings, giggling and jostling with their new-found friends.
The Neev students gave away apples to their new-found friends as a gesture of goodwill.
The students then visited the historical Bellandur Lake temple and spend some ‘quality time’ appreciating the architecture.
The only disappointment was that the Bellandur Lake was completely fenced off by The BBMP and there was no safe access to the Lake...essentially out-of-bounds. Concerned staff are working with the local officials on creating a safe access route to the lake for carrying out scientific/ecological investigations
This exploratory visit was a hugely satisfying and fulfilling experience for the students and teachers and we intend to follow it up on though deeper reflections and dialogues with the students.
This is still a ‘work in progress’ and miles to go before we sleep.