Award-Winning Environmental Stewardship
Students at a Salesian-run high school in India are leading the charge toward a cleaner environment, a more resilient planet, and a sustainable future — through “green” initiatives that directly benefit the communities in which they live, and inspire increasingly critical advocacy and action among society at large.
With more than 1.32 billion people, India’s growing population places a severe strain on the nation’s natural resources — a fact that has not gone unnoticed by pupils and missionaries around the country. This past May, in fact, we reported on the “Don Bosco Green Alliance” — a Mumbai-based network that seeks to support Salesian-led schools as they shift to an educational model designed in the spirit of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si.
“Young people, take up the Green Challenge!” exclaims the Alliance’s website.
This is exactly what students at Don Bosco High School Matunga — a member institution of the Alliance — have done. And their efforts have earned them top honors in India’s 2018 Educational World Grand Jury Awards.
The competition ranked more than 800 nominated schools in 11 categories, including Green Schools, STEAM Education Excellence, Community Outreach and more. Among the top five schools nominated in the Green Schools category, Don Bosco Matunga emerged as the first-place winner.
“There is no doubt that Don Bosco is a brand that is famous and revered around the country,” says Mr. C. Rai, an educator and program coordinator at the high school. “We are proud to be part of this great legacy.”
This is the inaugural year of the Education World Grand Jury Awards, whose aim is to recognize and celebrate schools that are making extraordinary efforts to introduce innovative, 21st-century practices in primary through secondary education. For their part, Don Bosco Matunga students collaborated on several environmental projects with directly measurable results.
The first involved packing plastic bottles with clean, dry, recycled plastic to form “eco-bricks” that can be used again and again. With the 1,730 bricks they created, students built proper sanitation structures in nearby slums.
Other projects focused on spreading awareness beyond the school’s walls, through modeling positive environmental behaviors that others can easily adopt: fanning out into neighborhoods as part of a squad to draw attention to and discourage littering; organizing beach clean-up activities; and launching a campaign to ban the use of consumer plastics in Maharashtra. Students also leverage existing events, such as assemblies, sports programs, camps and other school activities, to spread their message more broadly.
“To be placed high up there and acknowledged as one of the premier educational institutions in the country is indeed a special and proud moment,” says Father Bernard Fernandes, principal of Don Bosco High School. “However, it is a major responsibility appropriated to us to sustain the good and innovative practices that touch the lives of thousands of students that pass through the portals of this school every year.”
Indeed. Once these practices ripple through the students’ families, communities and country, they might well be felt around the world.
Our mission teaches youth to be stewards of God’s earth. What’s your mission?