Hope for a SAFER to­mor­row

Jamaica Gleaner - - ARTS & EDUCATION -

ALONG THE banks of Arakawa River in Tokyo, a group of peo­ple are hud­dled to­gether as they lis­ten to Mi­noru Igarashi’s in­struc­tions on colour coding for garbage sep­a­ra­tion and safety.

The group, em­ploy­ees of a lo­cal com­pany, gath­ered to clean up the banks of the river, as­sisted by Arakawa Clean-Aid Fo­rum, a Tokyo-based non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“We are work­ing for a com­mon cause: to clean the river bank,” said Nat­suyuki Fu­ji­mori, a 20-year-old, who is one of the five full-time em­ploy­ees of the NGO.

Fu­ji­mori, who chose en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion over a cor­po­rate job, said that their team or­gan­ised 159 clean­ing ex­er­cises in 2015 and col­lected 5,602 bags of garbage – in­clud­ing from PET bot­tles, shoes, cans, base­ball and ten­nis balls, tyres, and in­sulin sy­ringes.

It is a col­lec­tive and com­mu­nity ex­er­cise. The NGO, to fund its op­er­a­tions, or­gan­ises clean­ing ex­er­cises for com­pa­nies that have en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion as their cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity man­date.

Groups spend a cou­ple of hours on a week­end af­ter­noon col­lect­ing garbage, fill­ing out a ques­tion­naire, and get­ting ed­u­cated on the impact of var­i­ous kinds of garbage on the en­vi­ron­ment and the food chain.

“To­day’s les­son,” Fu­ji­mori said, “is on plas­tic mi­cro pel­lets and the food cy­cle. The fish eat these pel­lets and these are the same fish we end up eat­ing, with tox­ins in their sys­tem.”

The group, af­ter the con­clu­sion of the clean­ing ex­er­cise, got to­gether and pumped their fists in uni­son for a job well done. It was a com­mu­nity and col­lec­tive ef­fort.

Around 300 kilo­me­tres, north of Tokyo, at the Shichigo El­e­men­tary School in Sendai City, 33 grade two stu­dents jumped and crouched un­der their desks in uni­son as their teacher, At­suko Ka­mata, gave a com­mand. This is part of their dis­as­ter-pre­pared­ness les­son, and to­day, they were learn­ing about what to do in the event of an earth­quake.

“Dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness is part of our cur­ricu­lum and we have al­lo­cated 30 hours in the year for grade one and two and 35 hours in the year for grade three and above,” shared Masaki Nakat­suji, vice-prin­ci­pal of the To­day’s les­son is ... Nat­suyuki Fu­ji­mori gives a pre­sen­ta­tion on ef­fects of garbage on the river’s ecosys­tem. Grade 4 stu­dents of Shichigo El­e­men­tary School, Sendai, at­tend a dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness class

school. The school is de­vel­op­ing a national cur­ricu­lum on dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness based on its first-hand ex­pe­ri­ences with the deadly earth­quake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 peo­ple dead in Sendai and sur­round­ing re­gions.

NOT A CHORE

The grade two stu­dents were

di­vided in groups as they stud­ied a poster with a photo of their route, on which they had to give their in­put on how they would re­act and save them­selves if an earth­quake struck. “I will run to a safe location and hide there,” said one stu­dent. Her class­mate added, “I will run away from the danger.”

‘Pre­ven­tion is bet­ter than cure’, an adage that the Shichigo El­e­men­tary School recog­nises and fol­lows, the in­sti­tu­tion has got the par­ents and com­mu­nity in­volved in the ex­er­cise to max­imise the ben­e­fits of the pro­gramme. From as­sist­ing in teach­ing stu­dents about safety prac­tices, to clean­ing the school com­pound, duty is pride, not a chore. In a grade four class, stu­dents filled out work­sheets on the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing them­selves at all times and be­ing aware of their sur­round­ings, and each had their rec­om­men­da­tions. “These ex­er­cises,” Nakat­suji said, “are an in­te­gral part of the school’s cur­ricu­lum, and espe­cially af­ter the

PHO­TOS BY AMITABH SHARMA

Seg­re­gated and packed ... no­tice the car­i­ca­ture on the bag ... that’s the mas­cot of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment for garbage bags

Amitabh Sharma

CON­TRIB­U­TOR

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