Garbage has been a huge issue for many months now, both on a domestic level and on school level. With many focusing on what’s on the streets, little attention is paid to what our little girls and boys are going through when it comes to the approach taken by schools to manage their garbage.
The Daily Mirror learnt from students from various leading Colombo schools that the garbage management within the schools is not going as smoothly as it is externally portrayed. Schools have informed their students to bring lunch boxes and to refrain from bringing plastic bags, lunch sheets, regifoam boxes, etc. Some schools have removed the garbage bins from each classroom, not providing the children with a place to throw their daily trash. In one such school students turned to the dustbins in the toilets, which resulted in the closure of all but one bathroom as a punishment. Students have expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that the schools expect them to put their garbage in their school bags as they are not allowed to bring polythene bags to even collect their trash. Some students also stated that there was only one garbage bin allocated for each building, where you cannot throw paper or plastic. Students have also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the teachers do not have to follow the same rules of not bringing plastic. Parents too are very discontent with the way the schools are handling garbage management deeming it as “too sudden” and that such practices should be brought in slowly and not in such a rapid manner. Instead of teaching student on how and why they should manage their garbage, schools are trying to solve the problem by getting rid of the garbage created by the students as a whole.
It was also revealed that certain schools have not adopted any form of managing their garbage with the students and continue to allow children to bring plastic. Some schools even take to burning their paper instead of sending it for recycling.
However, on a brighter note, we also learnt that many schools have adopted the three bin concept inside and outside the classrooms and food served in the canteen is served in paper bags, paper plates or put right into the student’s lunch boxes.
Speaking to Tissa Hewavithana, Secretary of the State Ministry of Education, the Daily Mirror learnt that the Ministry had sent a circular last year towards the end of December, regarding on how to maintain school premises in order to prevent the spread of dengue. In the circular schools have been asked to reduce the use of plastic and to bring every child to have quality cooked food in lunch boxes. The circular has also asked schools to manage their garbage and become familiar with separating the garbage in bins. Regarding the fact that certain schools had removed the bins from the classrooms as a whole, Mr. Hewavithana advised that maybe they could have three bins in the classrooms to encourage and teach the children on how to separate their daily trash.
He further said, “We need to give the children the necessary knowledge on the management of garbage, on the separation of degradable and non-degradable garbage and its importance which can be done by including this in the syllabus and our textbooks. We have to be a part of this sustainable project where in a short period of time we get the children used to creating less garbage and managing it. What we aim to do is incorporate good habits in our children when it comes to maintaining a healthy environment and managing their garbage.”