Daily Archives: July 29, 2019

From Participants To Co-Researchers, Adolescent Girls Explore The Meaning Of Their ‘Voices’

The discourses surrounding the Indian education system have focused on the voices of the stakeholders – policy makers, activists, education experts and specialists, teachers, and parents, ignoring the insights and suggestions of those who experience it firsthand – children.

An independent researcher, Jahanara Raza, studying at Cambridge University took on the mandate of exploring the meaning of ‘voice’ with 13 adolescents from Tughalakabad Extension, New Delhi, delving into the meaning of voice, how it connects with their understanding of learning, with questions and thoughts not many have probed into – Do we really know how students feel about their education in India? How do they think about their learning? What do they understand by the concept of a voice?

Using the method of PhotoVoice, a mix of photography and visual arts, as a medium to provide a platform to the voices of adolescent girls, she collaborated with an Arts Organization called Slam Out Loud and conducted workshops over the course of 12 days, that transformed these young girls from mere participants to active co-researchers.

The adolescent girls between the ages of 14-17 years, who came from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, had one uniting factor – they all attended the neighbourhood government school and felt frustrated that nobody was listening to what they think, feel and want. And that was the starting point of their metamorphosis in discovering their ‘voice’.

The project began at the initiation of the researcher to collect empirical evidence to build a case for the potential of student voices to transform the education system. In the end, it evolved into a collaborative effort where each student facilitated group discussions, questioned each other on how they discovered the meaning of their voice and eventually co-created images describing their voice. They even designed their own image release form and selected the content on their own for each photograph.

I think the tipping point in the process began to happen when the professional photographer, Aaditi Kulshreshtha, came to do a workshop with the girls. Each one began sharing aspects of that one incident that was connected to both their voice and their learning. This could be a moment where they found out they don’t have a voice or understood it’s meaning or raised it against an oppressive force. It was heart-wrenching to hear stories where violence was inflicted, their agency was taken away or crucial opportunity denied. It was unfortunate that they learned to have a voice in the face of denial and oppression. It is inspirational to see how each one of them took their personal stories and transformed them into pieces of art. For me, that was the most satisfying aspect of the project- to see them visualize their stories. I find it completely bizarre that our system doesn’t understand that students will be ill-equipped to learn the basics of Maths and Science, if they don’t have a space to reflect on these life-defining incidents. How can one be open to new things when the daily fight against mental baggage and societal constraint weighs one down?” says Jahanaara at the completion of this project.

The outcome of the “Project Vastavikta – The brave hearts of Delhi can be best articulated by the following photographs.

ALBIA

ANJALI

“The big block represents my big dreams but when I started growing up people started questioning them. Those thoughts, questions are breaking my dreams( broken pieces represents that).”

LAXMI

“These are my slippers that are showing the struggle and hard work. Just like my parents do. I also presume that these slippers conditions are showing poverty along with the commitment to work.”

MUSKAN

NAGMA

“My definition of voice is to express my feelings and keep on learning new things.”

POOJA

“This image indicates that similar thing, that I told you in the previous picture, it is just trying to show that all the efforts, people, experiences of every thing top to bottom from opportunities to values.i learned from school, it all started from school.”

PREETI

“This picture symbolize my confusion in life, that I don’t know where to go. When I was a kid, my parents used to told, that this is right for you and this is wrong for you. That has made me lose my choice, what I want to choose, what I like to do, what I want to do. All of them. Family given me direction, go there or go here, be this or be that. Society told-you is meant to be a household lady. They have decided my life by their own selves. I want to be a housewife? No, not all. I am meant to achieve something big, something great. That would help me grown up and develop, and help others to grow up, find their voice. This picture symbolizes I have lost my voice- where am I? Very confused. running here and there. Finding a way where to go. Where is my choice? Where is my decision? Everyone has given my instructions. Study, marry and become old. They told me, have decided my life already. Then what to say about me? where is my choice? did they ask before they had decided my life? Did they ask what i like to do and where I want to go? where I want to be? I am hanging on twigs of a tree, just not finding myself. Just a forcement and decisions of my societies and my family, none of them. Where am I? very confusing. Hanging on twigs with my slippers, being so confused about where to go and lead my life.”

PRIYA

“My reflection is showing; this shows like we had read before, 10th class syllabus in some poems- we should never remember our past because we always feel sadness. Whether our past is good or bad, sadness always comes on our face. On the first day of the project, when we made our journey chart about our learning, on that day we shared our chart with each and this brought me to this realization. We should remember our past sometimes. If we remember it, they help us learn things in the future, what we can fix and what we can leave behind. This reflection helps us to make things better.”

SANA

“Where she is sitting it shows that I am still confused and thinking where my life is leading me.”

SHABNUM

“What voice means to me? I clicked one photo from this learning journey, which I was attending. One foot was showing a man who never went to school, saw it’s face or knew the meaning of school. He never pushed himself towards education. Other shows, the foot of a child wearing school shoes, she/he is going to school now, and she/he is willing to learn, even new things, which was helping them to make their future better. My first picture represents, related to my voice. Seeing these two feet taught me the meaning of education, and what it really means/ how it helps us. I want to explore this to the public, to show how education is most compulsory for everybody. Government is working very hard to change the education system, every class has a lot of things where they will be able to understand things better.” 

SHIVANGI

“For me voice is something which make me more confident and courageous for example if we are struggling with any situation . if we are having we are having any problem than we have that much courage to speak up for it and reaise our voice . and protect us from bad person if wrong things happining with us . and we not find it good and not feeling comfortable than we have to brings our voice”

LAKHU

Slam Out Loud uses art forms like poetry, storytelling, visual arts, and theatre to help children from disadvantaged communities find their voice through creative expression.

View media coverage by Indian Express, Youth Ki Aawaz, NDTV and The Hindu

#LittleHumans Of Ahmedabad Share Serious Health Hazards Of Living Near Pirana Dumping Ground

Children at Brighton English School getting ready for their presentation. (Photo- Shahnawaz, TFI fellow)

The Pirana dumping ground, spread over 84 hectares has been Ahmedabad’s major dumping ground since 1982. The landfill comprises three 75-feet massive mounds of garbage. People living in close proximity of this dumping ground are constantly breathing polluted air, living amidst toxic waste and therefore surrounded by hazardous conditions. Children residing at the dump are left with no open spaces to play and do not attend school as they end up working at the dumping ground to assist their families in making a living.

These were some of the pressing concerns with which eighth 12-year-old students in Ahmedabad, living in close proximity to the dumping ground decided to understand the depth and scale of problems associated with this place. 

Mentored by Shahnawaz, a former Teach For India fellow, these boys also applied concepts of design thinking to their research project, are were invited by the Indian Institute Of Management, Ahmedabad to share how design thinking could be used as a problem solving tool. 

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) What is this research topic you chose?

A: We wanted to understand the contamination of soil at the dumping ground, the level of pollution and link it to the health hazards people face while living in the vicinity There were many layers to this topic- first the garbage itself, then the health hazards, then the mafia that works here along with the rag pickers who get income from working at the dumping grounds. It was important to understand the level of contamination before we conducted surveys with people.

Q) Why did you pick this topic?

A: All of us have grown up in this area and that’s why this topic is close to our heart. Often, people have normalised living around the dumping ground and remain ignorant of its adverse effects. We discussed three to four topics before we finalised researching on the Pinara dumping ground.

Q) The findings in your paper say that 53 % of the people who live within a 1 km radius of the dumping ground went to visit the doctor 3 to 5 times in a month. Can you tell us more about these findings?

A: Yes, that’s correct. We conducted a survey with 250 households living in the community and asked several questions around their health. Most children visited the doctor 3 to 5 times in a month and were facing respiratory diseases. Health concerns such as cold, cough, fever and respiratory diseases were common with people living at the dump yard.

Q) In the abstract you mentioned the complex issues of the dumping garbage and the need to make a mind map to prioritise which issue to focus on. Can you tell us more about the process of creating this mind map?

A: We wrote the pros and cons of all the issues around the garbage dump such as the Garbage Mountain, health hazards, children not attending school, the role of the government etc. Eventually, we started to prioritise the issues and once that was done, it was easier to find a connection between all of the sub topics. This helped us to design the structure and the approach to the entire study. For the survey, we used the field stage that helped us to come up with our problem statement.

Q) What concerned you the most from the findings?

A: Everything was a concern! The garbage mountain that was piling up was nothing more than toxic waste which added to the health hazards. The sad part is that not everyone can afford to move to a better and cleaner environment. Some of us know that the garbage dump is a problem and yet we have normalised it all.

Q) Can you share some anecdotes/stories of what people who lived close to the dumping ground had to say? What about the children in the neighbourhood community?

A: People were curious to know why we wanted to learn about the garbage dump and how our research will help them. A few people from the community were anxious and did not want to sign a consent form for the survey, others did not take us seriously and yet there were families who were keen to look for solutions.

We found that children were not attending school, would sometimes work at the dumping ground as rag pickers, and also suffered from health ailments.  This made us sad. Why should children go through this?

Q) What actions did you come up with to reduce the dumping of garbage?

A: We suggested that all kinds of waste be segregated – plastic waste, wet and dry waste, industrial waste and medical waste. We also think that the waste that is being dumped needs to move in a more systematic manner to different areas in smaller pockets rather than being dumped at one place.

Q) What did you find in terms of living conditions of children at the dumping ground?

A: Children do not even have a playground and they use the garbage dump, the only place available to them to play sports. Now you only tell us, how can this be a happy place for any child? We all like to play in the open, but here, we do not have any such space. We also came across children who did not attend school due to the poor quality of education. Even health conditions of children were not so good. We also found that children often complained of fever, headaches and cold and respiratory diseases.

Q) One of Asia’s largest dumping grounds is in Mumbai, Deonar. The Human Development Index(HDI) is the lowest. 50 % of the children are malnourished and live in hazardous circumstances. Did you know about this?

A: We do not know about the dumping ground in Mumbai. However, we did come across malnutrition in the dumping ground here. Children as young as 5 were weak and we could even see their bones. We also came across children who had rashes all over their bodies and others who were born with deformities. For us, these health hazards were alarming.

Q) Many children work at the dumping grounds and are unable to go to schools. What do you think is a solution to enable children to attend school?

A: Why can’t the rich people contribute to schools in slum communities so that more children feel like attending the school? The government should balance the facilities in the public and private schools. Tell me, even when children attend school, how many of them understand what the teacher is saying?

We believe, if children are provided with a happy environment, everyone will automatically feel like attending school. We also know that education is the right of every child irrespective of how much their family earns.

Q) Have you shared your findings with your peers, neighbourhood and the community? What did they have to say?

A: We got mixed response from people from the neighbourhood and community. Some of them were curious; others did not take us seriously. We are children after all, right? However, we were appreciated by our school for undertaking this research. For us, the best part was when we presented the findings to our school teachers and they encouraged us to dig deeper. Our teachers took the survey findings to their families and they gave us positive feedback. We are so happy!

Q) What’s next? How do you plan to take your research findings ahead?

A: We want to hold a press conference so that the media covers the issue of the dumping ground and hazardous waste, with seriousness. We believe this will also put pressure on the government. You know, the government talks about Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and a clean India, but why doesn’t the government first clean the heaps of dump? We shall be looking at filling a Public Interest Litigation to know more about the violations of rules for having the dumping ground close to the houses of people.

Little Humans is a volunteer driven photo project based on the belief that the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. You can contribute too. Share a story, volunteer with us or simply leave a comment on our blog. For more such stories, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

#LittleHumans Of Shiv Nadar Public School In Delhi Find Simple Solutions To Prevent Air Pollution

Go Vert team using bamboo to grow trees. (Photo- City As Lab)

At Shiv Nadar Public School in Gurugram, almost every classroom has an air purifier installed to prevent children from the rising air pollution in Delhi. At school, children of all ages, come wearing masks, equipped to protect themselves from breathing impure air.

These alarming and urgent concerns rattled four Class 12 students- Palak Modi, Disha Zatchi, Soumya Juneja and Ira Sidhu who took on the challenge to find a solution to this pressing problem. They started by applying a simple, cost-effective and sustainable solution – Go Vert, to reduce air pollution in their school premises.

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) Why did you want to take on a research study?

A: Our teachers told us about City As Lab and asked if we’d like to participate in a year-long research study. The idea to conduct a study in real time, come up with a problem statement and find solutions to the problems around us, seemed interesting. Some of us in the group are trained Kathak dancers and often spend are free time rehearsing, this was something different for us to take on, besides studying.

Q) What is the research topic you explored? How did you arrive at Go Vert as the study topic?

A: Air, the most important element to sustain life on Earth, is now getting severely polluted. This also has adverse effects on our health. We wanted to see how natural purifiers helped to reduce air pollution, and therefore took on the task of testing the effectiveness of plants over air purifiers in our immediate surroundings i.e our school campus.

There were multiple reasons we chose to research this topic. Firstly, it is not something that is on everyone’s agenda. The situation has become so alarming that most places in our school have air purifiers installed. However, despite the air purifiers, children would come wearing a mask and not go to a playground to play. They were scared of the pollution outside the classroom environment. This was disturbing to know and see. Another reason to take on this topic was because Disha from our group has asthma and she too would wear a mask to school. She had to shout to make her own voice heard as most times the other person was unable to hear what she was saying. I mean, this does not even make sense, right?

All of these reasons gave us a strong push to choose this topic over any other.

Q) Can you tell us more about Go Vert and why you chose the name?

A: Vert means green in French. So, the literal translation was Go Green and hence we came up with the name “Go Vert”. If you see, Vert is also the prefix of the word vertical. Since we were planting vertical vegetation in our school, it fit perfectly!

Q) In the introduction of the abstract you mentioned “Sooner or later, we shall have to realise the earth has rights too, to live in a safer environment, to be able to breath.” Please elaborate.

A: We consider earth as ‘being’ with equal rights, just as we humans have. We share resources with Earth and we have to give respect to the earth for the natural resources it provides for us. The Earth is our home. We should not exploit Earth or our future generation and keep over-using or ill-treating its resources.

Q) If the earth has rights, does that mean you have rights as a citizen too? And do you have rights as a child?

A: Yes, we too have rights as citizens and as children! We think the Right to Education, Right to Survival, Right to Protection from harm and abuse, Right to Participation, Freedom of Expression are some of the basic rights of children.

Underlying all of these is the right to be heard and ensure we are protected and this is why we live, right?

Q) Tell us about the experience of studying air quality? What did your findings tell you?

A: For starters, we first understood what Air Quality Index (AQI) meant. For instance, if the AQI of Delhi reached 250, what does this actually mean? We kept reading these figures in the media. How polluted is the air? We went back to basics and also got Air Quality Monitors to study the AQI in our school. We understood that AQI keeps changing depending on the weather and other external factors such as proximity of factories and chemicals around us. That in itself was an eye-opener.

Q) We all know that plants act as natural air purifiers. ‘Grow more plants’ is what we have been hearing and yet it isn’t achieved entirely. What did your study indicate?

A: It is time to go back to the basics! One of the easiest things is to put up a machine instead of using what is naturally available to us. What we need right now is cost effective, and sustainable solutions by using the natural resources already available to us. Our study told us that plants act as natural purifiers and it will only benefit us if we went back to the natural resources available to us to solve pressing issues.

Q) What difference did you find in the air quality level after you placed plants in your school?

A: For about two months, we planted trees in our school and found a drastic change in the level of AQI. We used Air Quality Monitors to test the same. We saw a 15-20 % reduction in the PM level, an air pollutant found in the air. With monitoring the AQI, we concluded that plants help reduce the AQI level drastically.

Q) Have you shared your findings with your friends, school, and neighbourhood?

A: Yes, we have been passionately working on the project and love having conversations, spreading awareness and asking everyone for their feedback. We feel that it is a collective responsibility to protect the environment around us so that our future generations will be able to have cleaner air.

Q) Do you know about the odd-even scheme that the Government of Delhi rolled out as a way to reduce air pollution in the city? What do you know about its success and failure?

A: We think it is a controversial scheme because in a vast and diverse country like India the odd even-scheme cannot run in the long run. One cannot prevent vehicles from being on the road. Even though the scheme did better in the first phase, the AQI did not reduce drastically in the next round. Our research told us that there are many parameters by which the AQI can show us a change in the levels.

Q) What did you learn about plants, the environment, air pollution, and damage to the climate, through this research?

A: We always underestimated the capacity or ability of plants. Besides producing oxygen, they not only improve the air quality but also have some therapeutic effects on the person who is occupying the room. It pacifies the mood, calms and relaxes people. Some plants also help to keep insects away. Some of the plants we put in school were the Snake Plant, Aloe Vera, Spider Plant, Peace Lily , Lemon Grass, and Basil. For instance, the snake plant gives us oxygen 24/7. It is a natural purifier, Basil and Lemon Grass keeps ants, flies and mosquitoes away.

Q) Is climate change and its effects a topic of conversation at school, at home or with your friends?

A: Yes. Now, after our research study, we do that all the time! After planting vertical vegetation in the school, we also have got the same plants at our home. In a city like Bangalore, vertical vegetation is popular and we hope to take this to apartments in Delhi too. We also keep discussing how to take this project ahead and keep sharing with our parents and friends on our future plans.

Q) What were some of the interesting things you learnt that you never knew before?

A: There were so many interesting things. We never knew what terms such as AQI actually meant. We did not even know how to measure AQI. Now, we have a deeper understanding of how this works and it was fascinating to become aware of the air we breathe!

Q) What was difficult about this research?

A: Air pollution is a topic not everyone wants to dig deeper into. To choose this topic, convince everyone why it is important, and to understand the hazards of air pollution remained a challenge.

Q) A WHO report in 2014 listed 10 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, in India…No 1 being Delhi. It also highlighted that children were at the greatest risk. Did you know that?

A: Yes, we are aware of the WHO report that said Delhi was the No. 1 polluted city in the world, which is why there is an urgent need to work on effective solutions. We are aware of the risks children face. We at least got a chance to be outdoors and play in the open, but we feel bad for children younger than us, who prefer being indoors than outdoors.

Q) Your report stated that children could not go out to play in playgrounds because of air pollution. How did you feel about that?

A: A large part of our childhood revolves around play and it was sad for us to see children sitting indoors, listening to music than going out. We don’t think anyone should have a childhood like that!

Q) If you had to appeal to the country/ world leaders (on behalf of other children too) to ensure your right to clean air was fulfilled, what would you say to them?

A: We think the UN is doing a good job while talking about Climate Crisis and air pollution. However, the need of the hour in India is to use sustainable long term solutions which are cost effective. We’d like to support them and collaborate with the government on this!

We strongly feel that making bullet trains by cutting down trees may lead to development, but it will never create a balance in the environment or produce clean air. The government needs to relook at the things it does in the name of development. Simple things like planting trees in big volumes can go a long way in protecting the environment.

Q) What are you plans/ actions after the research? How are you going to share your findings with people outside of school so that air pollution can reduce in your city? Tell us your ideas.

A: We are in talks with different NGOs and would like to work with them to provide eco-friendly solutions. This will also help us take our work further as we also want to create green spaces in apartments and societies in Delhi and Gurugram.  We shall also be participating in the Google Science Fair which will give our research a big boast! Planting a tree is a simple thing and can go a long way.

Little Humans is a volunteer driven photo project based on the belief that the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. You can contribute too. Share a story, volunteer with us or simply leave a comment on our blog. For more such stories, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

#LittleHumans Of Parel Unravel Living Conditions Of Animals At Byculla Zoo

Shreya, Akanksha and Tanvi with their street pet dog at a community temple in Parel (Photo- City As Lab)

When three friends Shreya, Akanksha and Tanvi discovered that they could turn their city into a laboratory, research on issues that concerned them and their environment, it felt as if they landed at the right place at the right time.

Driven by their love for animals, the trio took up a 9 month long exploration, to probe and investigate the plight of animals at their neighbourhood zoo. They undertook the entire research design and delivery process themselves, attempting to meet the zoo authorities on different occasions, to gather first hand data.

Their research project was built in a way to derive responses for the question “Is Jijamata Udyan (Byculla Zoo in Mumbai) capable of keeping animals in the zoo?” that translated into a report – Jijamata Udyan: Paradise or Prison? which reflected their perspectives, observations and solutions on how to make a zoo that was safe for all the animals.

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) What was the reason you choose this research topic?

A: We all love animals. In our group, we have had about 7 cats as pets, Shreya here wants to become a veterinarian and all the street animals are her pets- she has named the cats Peri, Kitty, Meow Meow. So that’s why we were naturally drawn to the topic. But apart from this, we read in the newspaper that the Byculla Zoo had recently kept Penguins are we were curious to know if the weather conditions in Mumbai were suitable for them. We had visited the zoo during our Diwali vacations, when we read that the baby Penguin died and this made us really sad!

You tell us, how can Penguins live in the humid weather of Mumbai? This made us dig deeper to understand the condition of other animals that were kept in the zoo. Was the zoo capable of following all the guidelines for the existing animals and taking care of them? This led us to explore and choose this topic- Is Jijamata Udyan capable of keeping animals in the zoo?

Q) What did your research study tell you about the zoo and the conditions of the animals?

A: We went to 25 cages and visited the zoo at least fifteen times in 9 months. The first thing that caught our attention was the portable water kept for animals. It was not clean and had turned green. We realised, this was not good for the health of the animals. Would we drink green water? So why keep it for the animals? The Central Zoo Authority  has come up with guidelines and rules that every zoo has to follow. For instance, every zoo needs to have two veterinarian doctors and we found that the zoo has only one doctor. However, whenever we tried to meet her, we were told she was either on leave or not available to meet. We tried meeting her at least 10 times.

Q) You quoted from a research study which stated that 86 percent people felt the zoo is not safe. Can you tell us more about this?

A: It was a newspaper article where a local corporator had conducted a survey to ask the opinion of people which said that 86 percent of people who had visited the zoo felt that the zoo is not safe for the animals. That apart, statistics and an RTI filled by an activist told us that the zoo popularly known as Rani Baug lost the highest number of animals in the past six years in 2016-17. Besides, 77 animals, birds and reptiles perished over the past year. We had to rely on secondary data and our observations because no authority wanted to meet us.

Q) You have stated that more than 5000 people visit the zoo every day and the officials do not have the capacity to keep the animals safe? Can you elaborate?

A: It is not just the officials that are at fault, even the visitors who come to the zoo are not mindful of the animals. People were disturbing the animals and teasing them while they were asleep. That apart, cats too were kept in cages in the zoo. This is a violation of rules as domestic animals cannot be kept in cages. The elephant in the zoo kept on swinging his trunk and was not able to stay still. Later, we got in touch with a zoologist who shared with us that the elephant was unwell and that was a reason he could be swinging his trunk. We observed that the birds always had their beaks open and did not have drinking water around them. It was a gross violation of so many rules set by the Zoo Authority of India.

Q) What did the government funding towards the infrastructure in the zoo, food for animals, and the salary of the staff look like? Did you identify any gaps there?

A: Everything was a mismatch at the zoo as it did not seem like the government funding had reached the zoo officials. The zoo had many vacant posts that were never filled and the infrastructure was not up to the mark.

We understand that it can’t always be an ideal situation, but then, why get penguins in the zoo if you can’t keep the existing animals safe? This is just violating the rights of animals and harassing them.

Q) In the research study, you said you tried to meet the officials thrice but they refused to meet you. Why do you think this happened? 

A: Well, the zoo authorities were scared because a lot has been spoken about them in the media. They did not want to talk to us with the fear of losing their job. We also felt that because we did not have authority and were children, they felt like they were not answerable to us.

Q) What are your plans to take the study ahead?

A: We want to ensure that animals are protected in the zoo. We created a Facebook page to spread awareness but as we got busy with our studies, we did not get the time to follow up. We will start the page again to talk about love for our animals and try to create conversations around the reality at Byculla Zoo.

Q) What message you would want to give to children who visit the zoo?

A: Like we stated earlier, children can be mindful of the animals and take care of their needs too.

Q) Recently, we celebrated World Environment Day, which talks about the rights of the earth, global warming, protecting the environment and the planet. Where do animals and wildlife fit in? What is your take on this?

A: Animals have the right to live on this planet just as we humans have and we hope everyone takes it seriously!

Q) Just as the animals have rights, even children have rights. Did you know about this?

A: Yes, we know that children have rights too!

Q) What are your rights as children?

A: We have the right to know about everything, the right to ask questions and get a response, we should not be considered smaller than anyone else. We also have the right to learn, right to education and the right to get information.

Q) What message would you have for leaders who are working on animal welfare and the environment?

A: Improve the zoo, take care of animals. Our gardens and forests are as important as roads and infrastructure. Government officials should first visit all the zoos and see the conditions of all the animals. Once they do that, they would be able to come up with better policies and keep the rights of animals intact.

Little Humans is a volunteer driven photo project based on the belief that the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. You can contribute too. Share a story, volunteer with us or simply leave a comment on our blog. For more such stories, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

#LittleHumans From MSB International School Tell Us Why We Should Stop Consuming Bread

Mariya, Mustufa, Huzefa and Zainab testing different breads at their school lab (Photo- City As Lab)

What if a group of children told us that eating bread has more harm than good? Mariya, Mustafa, Huzefa and Zainab from MSB International School in Mazgaon, Mumbai, took on the mandate of answering the question “How safe and healthy are the different varieties of bread available in the market?” It was by reading latest news and research papers, consuming bread themselves and understanding well that many people consume bread on a daily basis, that they decided to delve deeper into understanding the harmful effects of consuming bread and titled their project – “Bread Matters”.

The students took up this burning research topic and studied it for over nine months before drawing a conclusion on the same. They prepared their own research design, methodology, sampling and data collection procedure and also used their science laboratory to an informed argument on why we should stop consuming bread on a daily basis.

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) Tell is about the research you took on.

A: We chose a simple topic. We wanted to understand the harmful effects of bread, the use of chemicals and the health hazards bread can cause us and that’s why we took up this research study.

Q) Do you know about different forms of research? What was your approach towards the study?

A: We know the basic forms of research such as primary and secondary research, importance of a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis and using different methods to collect the data and analyze it.

Our approach for the research was simple. We gathered 12 kinds of breads such as Pita Bread, Pizza Bread, White Bread, Wheat Bread, Pao from different bakeries around the city and tested the bread in our laboratory to study the chemical components in the bread. We used google forms and reached out to more than 88 families to understand their consumption patterns of bread. We also used secondary research to understand the components in bread that make it harmful for daily consumption.

Q) Why did you pick this topic?

A: We read news articles and research studies that said bread is unhealthy. So, we wanted to know why and if it was really true. We began to dig deeper to get more details. Everyone loves to consume bread, it is tasty, simple and easy to cook. However, we always had a doubt if bread was cooked with overuse of chemicals to increase its shelf life. This intrigued us we picked this research topic.

Q) What are the harmful effects of bread as per your study?

A: Bread uses preservatives such as Potassium Bromate used to bind the bread and strengthen the dough. In 1999, the International Agency on Research for Cancer declared that potassium bromate was a possible human carcinogen, which means that it can possibly cause cancer.

Calcium Propionate, another ingredient used in bread causes stomach ache, migraines and other behavioral changes such as irritability and mood swings.

Q) We read that you want to start a workshop on homemade breads. Do you have any plans to involve children in this?

A: Yes, the school has begun with a bakery class where every child is taught how to make homemade bread. It is healthy, organic, fresh and does not have preservatives. We took the study to our teachers and when they realised the harmful effect bread can cause, they themselves reduced the consumption of bread and have initiated bakery classes. At least 1000 children including families have reduced their consumption of bread.

Q) What do you plan to study/ research next? Tell us.

A: We will study the chemicals in biscuits because by now we know anything that uses preservatives to increase the shelf life is more damaging to our health and we would like to come up with alternatives for them.

Q) As home science students, what is your take on nutrition for children. What do you think constitutes a healthy meal for a child?

A: Eating a balanced diet is important. Fruits and vegetables are a must for a healthy mind and body. Every child should eat food with less use of preservatives and add a gluten free diet to their food. We do not know the preservatives used in packaged food anyway. We want to ensure that every child gets quality food and does not have to go through malnutrition or falling ill due to lack of a good diet. Instead of wasting food and consuming it from malls, we can save money, and contribute so that no child is left hungry.

Q) Do you have anything to say to the government or policy makers when it comes to nutrition, eating healthy for children?

A: The government must provide healthy food to every child. Instead of saying there are no children on the street; the government can go to the communities and slums where they live in large numbers. Every child requires a healthy diet and the government can promote healthy food in school canteens too.

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