Nov 20, 2017

Pitch it! Updates Kids' School Enterprises


It's been six months since the grand finale of Pitch it! The Kids Sustainable School Challenge and we're delighted to share that all of the kids enterprises are up and running. We had some delays because of the weather: floods. Many of the schools we work in, in collaboration with the Government of Bihar are flooded half of the year. They are literally under water. So it's only when the water recedes that school can begin again, and in our case, that Kid's School Enterprises can be planted.

Shipra's Recycling Co.

Shipra’s school was a mess, according to Shipra, because kids throw garbage everywhere. There are no dustbins and no proper waste disposal. Shipra's big idea was to clean up the mess with the help of her friends and make her school squeaky clean. Shipra and her friends recycled 50 tin cans and 10 waste oil drums to make dustbins out of them. They painted them in bright colors. Now, in shipra’s school, not only are the dustbins present but they make her school look cool because of the brightly coloured recycled dustbins. Every classroom in Shipra’s school got two dustbins, one for organic waste and one for non-organic waste. All the non-organic waste is being properly disposed of by the municipal department of Kishanganj and the organic waste goes to the organic compost manufacturer.

Shivam's Greenhouse Co.

Shivam’s problem was the rampant deforestation going on in the area and lack of electricity in his school. His solution for both problems was unique and effective. Shivam proposed to set up bird houses, bird nests, in trees so that the people wouldn’t cut down the trees. For electricity, Shivam decided for solar energy to power his school. Waste fruit boxes were put into good use to make the Birdhouses and put on trees, all of Shivam's friends joined in painted them in bright colors to attract the most exciting birds they had seen once upon a time, but had not visited latrely. Solar panels were installed on the rooftop and secured with iron grills. Solar panels now provide Shivam’s school with ample energy to power the computer lab, lights and fans at school. New trees were also planted in the school premises to increase the green cover further. Shivam has declated his school self-sufficient in terms of energy and a hub for all the birds in the area.

Ashish’s Build Clean Toilets Co.

Ashish school had low attendance and most of the kids skipping the school more often than not. The reason? Lack of toilets in Ashish’s school. He found out that the root cause behind his friends not coming to school every day was because there was no loo, or rather there were not enough loos, the one that was there was dirty. Ashish set out to devise a plan to restore the existing mucky toilets to excellent running condition and to construct new toilets as well. All the toilets in Ashish’s school were repaired, connected to running water and a new set of toilets were built. The school management is taking the responsibility of maintaining the toilets. A student committee has been made responsible for overseeing the maintenance. The kids are running a campaign in the community to teach people the importance of toilets in every home. The attendance of girls in the school has increased ten times.

Chandan’s Clean Water for All Co.

Muddy water was the only thing available in Chandan’s school for the kids to drink. Unsurprisingly, most of the kids were getting sick because of water borne diseases. Chandan knew that he had to do something about this problem and his solution involved installing a new handpump in the school premises which supplies fresh water 24 hours/day. A borewell was dug 300 feet deep where finally clean, arsenic free, mud free and contaminant free water was available. The school is marking out funds from their annual budgets to install water coolers for the kids so that the kids can get fresh and cold water in the months of scorching heat. Chandan’s solution has solved the biggest problem of his school and he is a hero with his friends.


Shivam's Bird Houses
Shivam's Bird Houses


Aug 29, 2017

A carnival for girls

It was 12 noon when we reached Neha’s school in Kishanganj. The heat didn’t seem to deter the boys from hanging around outside. Where were all the girls, we wondered. This was supposed to be a co-ed school. 

We walked past the boys into the school, where two girls ran up to us.


“Are you looking for Neha?” 

 “I am Neha”

“She is Neha”

“We saw you. We thought you must be here to interview us.”


They speak at the same time. Finishing each other’s sentences.

“Are you best friends?”


“No and yes. Well she is my sister, Shama, and we are both in Grade 9.”

“She is younger. I skipped a year to get her to go to Grade 9 with me. 

My mother would not allow me to go to school alone, now we can come to school together,” explains Shama.


We sit down to talk to both Neha and Shama. 


Neha and Shama come from a large family, like most of their friends in school. Like most large families Neha explains, decisions for her and her sister are taken by the eldest member of the family, in their case their maternal grandmother. This is where things get challenging for the girls. 

“We often miss school, because of each other, I because of her and she because of me, it’s just the way things are at home,” Shama shrugs.


“Our day starts early, we have chores, then tuition class, school, back home and then more chores until our father and brother comes back, usually around midnight. If our mother is alone at home, then both of us have to stay back, to help her.”


This year they have missed 80 days of school.


That’s a lot.


They answer together.


“We work hard for school, get up early, and manage our time, so that we can complete our lessons, catch up with what we’ve missed.”


In their village, a lot of their friends are married before they finish Grade 10, a truth that Shama says her sister and she will have to face. But Neha is not ready to give up yet. 


“Look at Bijali in the story. Everyone said she couldn’t do it, but she did bring the carnival to the village, didn’t she? She shows that girls can do anything they want, as well as boys, sometimes even more. The sad part is girls have to prove their worth, every single time.”


Shama nods, “If we could bring the carnival to our village, it would help so many people with their businesses. Even our father, he has a shoe business. Can you imagine how many new customers he could get? But it will be really difficult to get anyone to listen to our idea, let alone agree.”


As we get closer to their house, we ask them, what’s the solution?


“First we need to convince our father and brother. If they agree, we may be able to keep attending school,” says Shama. 


Neha thinks it’s not just family that has to change. 


“Society has to rethink the importance of marriage.  It cannot be where life stops for girls. A girl can do multiple things at the same time, if she studies hard in school, she can go to college, get a job, run a business, earn money and still help at home. We’re multi-taskers! Isn’t that more useful than just doing one thing: getting married? We’re assets not liabilities.”

Once we reach their home, the atmosphere and the girls’ tone changes. 

The girls stop talking. As we seek permission to take Neha’s photo under her grandmother’s watchful gaze, Shama whispers, encouraging Neha to smile, “It takes a lot to bring a carnival to a village. It takes even more to get girls to go to the carnival.” And for a moment, again, Neha smiles.

Aug 21, 2017

Planting new school enterprises (& floods!)

A clean water company
A clean water company


What happened in Pitch It?

The first edition of Pitch It, finale of The Kids Sustainable School Challenge was a success. 

103 kids from eight districts of Bihar travelled in 11 buses along with their parents and 100 teachers to Nalanda (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) for the event to pitch their school-change enterprises ideas. For most of the kids, this was their first time on a big stage, in front of a large audience. “My legs are shaking! But I need to do it for my friends and my school”- exclaimed Shipra before taking the big stage to present her school enterprise idea in front a panel of judges which constituted of kids. 

How do you calm the nerves of 103 kids the night before their big day? An evening of fun and frolic of course. A moonlight market was set up the day before the red carpet event where kids displayed products they’d made from recycled things, there were street carts with mango juice, peanuts and fruits. To inspire the kids even further, local hero entrepreneurs were present to demonstrate problem solving skills through their products- pure organic honey, organic compost, solar lamps etc.

The big day of the event witnessed a crowd of 1,300 people. The size of the crowd explains why Shipra was nervous. Out of the 103 kids pitching their idea, 50 won grants for their Sustainable School Enterprise. Shipra’s Recycle to Clean Co., Shristi’s Let’s Play Co., Chandan’s Clean Water for All Co., Zabeen’s Wacky Sports Co., Shivam’s The Greenhouse Co., were some of the most promising enterprise ideas focusing on real life problems that kids are facing. Your money will act as the seed capital for starting up these school enterprises.


What happened next

Every year there are floods in Bihar, this year again, more than 50% of the schools we work in are affected by floods. Many schools are completely underwater. Which means, schools are closed, children move with their families to the highest place: the road. In the schools that are open, our winning kids have begun breaking ground on their school enterprises, making blue-prints, finding carpenters, plumbers, toilet-entrepreneurs to come to their schools to help them plan, and soon, to begin. 

“Too many of my friends have fallen sick due to the water in our school, I miss my friends. I’ve found a way to bring clean water for my school," Kriti has missed her friends that dropped out becuase they were sick, because there was no drinking water. She's looking forward to bringing them back to school when her clean-water solution is in action. 

May and June were summer holidays, so schools were closed. When schools reopened our entire team was out visiting every grant-winning child and their school. Wherever the team went, the cooperation from the teachers, principals and the students was fun, positive, sometimes overwhelming in excitement, asking 'When do we begin, now?". In order to ensure that all school enterprises are set up to be sustainable, with a bigger aim of increasing the number of kids in schools, we adopted a holistic approach in solving the problems that kids wanted to solve at school with their enterprises.

We asked kids to set up kid committees in all schools involving kids from all grades, not just Grade 10, but Grade 9-12: everyone will be a part of making the school enterprise a success. These kid committees are hard at work putting the finishing touches on their research and finding local entrepreneurs, mentors, heroes, parents, artisans to come help build their school enterprises.

As we began, there are floods. We'll be back when the water recedes to see which kids enterprises need to begin again, start anew or just start. Stay tuned. 

Thank you for your support, through popular demand we're bringing Pitch it back for 2018, and this year's theme is 100% Wild, we're asking kids to define enterprises that are organic, reccyle, repurpose, remake and don't pollute. Our bet is on the wild bees, honey and beekeepers, that's a story we'll share with you next.


An environmental enterprise: save trees!
An environmental enterprise: save trees!
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