India's "recycled" school teaches environmental lessons

Thu Jul 21, 2011 11:48am EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

PUNE, India (Reuters Life!) - On a regular school day, four-year-old Kush Bhattacharya can leave his mathematics class to run barefoot on grass, hide from his friends in a cave made of cow dung and return to recite nursery rhymes in a red bus that doubles up as a classroom.

Kush is a student at the Aman Setu school in Pune, an educational and technological hub three hours drive from Mumbai.

Almost every part of the school premises is made out of recycled material, including roofs made out of old hoardings, walls built from plastic bottles and hand-stitched uniforms made out of eco-friendly 'khadi', or handspun, cloth.

"It isn't a marketing thing, it's what we believe and how we live," says Madhavi Kapur, who started the school in 2008 with just four students. The school now has more than 140 students studying up to grade five.

"We didn't have too much money to begin with, and one of my (former) students, who is an architect came up with the idea of using recycled materials to build the school on a piece of land leased to me by my brother," she said.

Starting off with a modest 600,000 rupees ($13,500) Kapur and architect Saurabh Phadke devised ways to build walls from mud and old cement bags. They were then tamped down and plastered with mud.

Consisting of just two one-storeyed structures which house four classrooms, students at Aman Setu, which means bridge of peace, sit on rattan mats on a cowdung-plastered floor, use text books handed down from other students and grow their own vegetables in a small garden.

Children get to feed fish in a tank, watch a robin's egg hatch and travel to school by community transport - all in an effort to make them more environmentally conscious.   Continued...

<p>A student wearing a pink dress enters a classroom through a miniature door constructed specially for children at the Aman Setu school in Pune, about 190km (118 miles) from Mumbai, July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash</p>