Lay­ing the foun­da­tion of sus­tain­abil­ity with school for change: Vidyashilp Academy, In­dia’s first Fair­trade School

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To em­power and ed­u­cate the next gen­er­a­tion of cot­ton farm­ers and gar­ment fac­tory work­ers about sus­tain­abil­ity, Vidyashilp Academy (VSA), Ban­ga­lore has be­come In­dia’s first Fair­trade School.

To em­power and ed­u­cate the next gen­er­a­tion of cot­ton farm­ers and gar­ment fac­tory work­ers about sus­tain­abil­ity, Vidyashilp Academy (VSA), Ban­ga­lore has be­come In­dia’s first Fair­trade School. A Fair­trade School is at the heart of the global move­ment for change. Through such ini­tia­tives, stu­dents un­der­stand the depth of is­sues like trans­parency, eth­i­cal busi­ness, sus­tain­abil­ity, cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, so­cial en­trepreneur­ship and the role played by non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions. The school sources Fair­trade cer­ti­fied uni­forms and pro­motes sus­tain­able ini­tia­tives.

Fair­trade has a huge net­work of schools all over the world with more than 1,000 reg­is­tered Fair­trade Schools in just the UK and over 500 Fair­trade Schools in Ger­many; and now Vidyashilp is the new name added to the Fair­trade fam­ily. Fair­trade is tar­get­ing at least 50 more such schools in In­dia in next one year.

The en­vi­ron­ment at the school gives the feel and pas­sion for be­ing a re­spon­si­ble per­son right from the be­gin­ning.

Four years ago, Fair­trade In­dia launched a Fair­trade Pilot School Pro­gramme in In­dia with the idea of teaching young peo­ple that how­so­ever in­sur­mount­able a prob­lem might seem, they can be change­mak­ers. The pur­pose was to make the next gen­er­a­tion more aware about the farm­ing cri­sis in In­dia and of the power, that ev­ery­one has as con­sumers to em­power the peo­ple in the food and fash­ion sup­ply chains. Vidyashilp Academy has been a Fair­trade Pilot School, since 2016 and has been pi­o­neer­ing the Fair­trade School Pro­gramme in In­dia. The stu­dents un­der­stand the con­cept of Fair­trade through class­room teaching and are par­tic­i­pat­ing in many en­gag­ing ac­tiv­i­ties over the years. Vidyashilp Academy has on var­i­ous oc­ca­sions or­gan­ised slo­gan writ­ing com­pe­ti­tions, draw­ing com­pe­ti­tions, tuck shops to sell Fair­trade cer­ti­fied prod­ucts, be­sides other such en­gag­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. The school de­cided to source uni­forms through Fair­trade cer­ti­fied sup­ply chains and the T-shirts in these uni­forms have the Fair­trade Mark on them, so both the school and the user know that there has been no so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­ploita­tion in mak­ing of these T-shirts. The farm­ers in Gu­jarat from Su­minter In­dia Or­gan­ics, who grew cot­ton for the uni­forms, had ac­cess to a fair price for their pro­duce; the gar­ment fac­tory work­ers in Mercer Ap­par­els, Tirupur had ac­cess to de­cent work­ing con­di­tions and the stu­dents in Ban­ga­lore are go­ing to school in Fair­trade uni­forms, a very sus­tain­able sup­ply chain.

Now, that the school has com­pleted its com­mit­ment of rea­son­able sourc­ing from Fair Trade associated farm­ers and has of­fi­cially been de­clared a Fair­trade School, the school cel­e­brated this achieve­ment. There were two-week long ac­tiv­i­ties to com­men­su­rate the oc­ca­sion. A Fair­trade Cot­ton farmer from Soundarya Farm­ers Pro­ducer Com­pany, Gu­jarat, Sar­vaiya Pravinku­mar Na­ga­jib­hai, and his fam­ily was also part of these ac­tiv­i­ties. The old­est of his three chil­dren, Divyaben Prav­inbhai, has re­ceived a schol­ar­ship through the Fair­trade pre­mium to pur­sue her higher ed­u­ca­tion and has gone ahead

The Fair­trade net­work en­gages with many farm­ers and work­ers all over the world to en­sure they have ac­cess to bet­ter prices, fair wages, bet­ter soil-wa­ter­waste man­age­ment tech­niques, train­ing on re­duc­ing the use of harm­ful chem­i­cals, and how to deal with climate change. Farm­ers ad­di­tion­ally have ac­cess to a Fair­trade Pre­mium for com­mu­nity and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects.

and topped her dis­trict ex­am­i­na­tion. On Au­gust 14th and 15th, the ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ cam­paign was launched in the school. A Fair­trade meal was pre­pared on the day of the launch with Fair­trade spices, rice, cashews, and raisins. This was fol­lowed by a dis­play of In­dia’s largest Fair­trade and Or­ganic T-shirt, and a stu­dent-farmer in­ter­ac­tion with Prav­inbhai in class­rooms. A se­ries of videos was launched where Vidyashilp Academy is in­form­ing other schools in In­dia about the steps to be taken for be­com­ing a Fair­trade School. Chil­dren of the school are draw­ing mes­sages for farm­ers on patches which will be stitched on to the largest Fair­trade T-shirt.

“The school col­lab­o­rates with global part­ners to fur­ther im­prove in­ter­cul­tural aware­ness and con­nects stu­dents to a di­verse and val­ued cul­ture. The Fair­trade In­dia col­lab­o­ra­tion is one such pur­suit at weav­ing eth­i­cal val­ues in the school pro­gramme. Our stu­dents have ac­tively con­trib­uted to the learn­ing out­comes from this as­so­ci­a­tion and carry a height­ened sense of aware­ness to the cause,” said

Ki­ran Pai – Di­rec­tor, Vidyashilp Academy. Kalai Selvi, Head of School, fur­ther shared that by join­ing the Fair­trade move­ment, stu­dents will nat­u­rally join the global com­mu­nity of eth­i­cal con­sumers. “They will con­tinue to be the change in­flu­encers, and con­tribute to­wards re­duc­ing the im­pact of so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­ploita­tion,” added Ki­ran.

Ab­hishek Jani, CEO, Fair­trade In­dia in­formed, “The com­mit­ment from Vidyashilp Academy to ed­u­cate stu­dents about sus­tain­abil­ity and em­power the farm­ers and the en­vi­ron­ment through the Fair­trade move­ment is his­toric and hugely in­spir­ing. By ful­fill­ing the re­quire­ments of be­com­ing a Fair­trade School, VSA is go­ing to cre­ate a huge im­pact on many farm­ers and work­ers across the coun­try.” He fur­ther added that with the sup­port from the Euro­pean Union’s Switch Asia Pro­gramme, the In­dia chap­ter looks for­ward to in­crease the reach of the Fair­trade School Pro­gramme in the coun­try and work with more schools across panIn­dia for main­stream sus­tain­abil­ity and cre­at­ing aware­ness for the 12th goal un­der­lined in the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDG) which talk about sus­tain­able con­sump­tion and pro­duc­tion.

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