In a novel initiative, students of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras have collected discarded or used cardboard boxes from e-commerce websites, retail stores, and even households from around Chennai and created eco-friendly desks for 400 students studying in government schools.
This is a part of REACH, a student-driven social development initiative, which seeks to serve both the people as well as the environment by promoting education and reuse, attached to the varsity’s flagship annual technology festival, Shaastra.
“Social initiatives such as REACH [have] been a part of Shaastra since 2016. We think this is our way of giving back to society. During last year’s initiative when we went to government schools to provide them with liquid handwash, we saw students sitting on the floors with hunched backs and without desks. That’s how we got the idea of REACH,” says Sabyasachi Mishra, one of the heads of the REACH initiatives in a conversation with The New Indian Express (TNIE).
With assistance from Teach for India, student volunteers have distributed these desks to seven government schools in the city. Besides being eco-friendly, these desks have been designed keeping in mind the safety of young students. For example, the edges of these tables have been smoothened out with tape. “Our first pilot run was in October this year when we started distributing the desks after the idea had been finalised in August,” says Sabyasachi, speaking to TNIE.
The emphasis now is to further this initiative with assistance from a network of other non-profits and assist government schools that often suffer from a shortfall in basic infrastructure.
REACH comprises a team of about 11 students coordinate work on the ground and come up with new ideas. It was established in 2016, and the first campaign they embarked on was Pledge a Book, where they collected unused books and facilitate the construction of libraries in rural and underserved areas of cities like Chennai. In the following year, the started Synk, an initiative that recycled plastic bottles into bricks that would later be used to construct toilets in rural areas.
The students have already developed a prototype of this brick and will approach experts in the field to further this initiative.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)