The Storyteller

Vijaya Kumari Sathyan - Championing Sustainability In Young Minds

Posted on - 5th August, 2021 Posted by - Yallaschools


Vijaya Kumari Sathyan - Championing Sustainability in Young Minds

The impact measures the success of an educational institution it creates on young minds. These are the minds that grow to become the pioneers of the next generation.

My journey with The Westminster School, GEMS started in 1995 as a high school chemistry teacher. I haves taken up different roles like the Timetable Manager, Phase Leader, and Head of Secondary. Each of these roles was a learning curve in my career. I am eternally grateful to GEMS, the Principals, and my colleagues as they helped me prepare for my future as the Vice-Principal and currently as the Head of School/Deputy CEO. The valuable guidance, motivation, and inspiration from my esteemed principals and peers were instrumental in making me set high standards for myself and the school. The faith in my abilities made me chart a path where every challenge was a new lesson.

The Westminster School is an institution that has grown from strength to strength in the past 25 years since its inception and continues to move from better to the best. The school's greatest accomplishment is to see its students ride the road of much-deserved success, to see them add a new paradigm to the word "change". This clarity makes them lifelong learners.

A point of pride for me is the work done at TWS in sustainability. We have been involved in many eco-school activities over the years that promote climate literacy and awareness such as organic farming, clean-up drives, battery collection, Simply Bottle and actively reducing paper consumption across the school. However, in 2020, we wanted to take it a step further and engage in sustainability practices.

An e-mail from Mr.  Sunny Varkey, Chairman, GEMS Education, sent to all the Principals in January 2020, inspired the TWS family to work on sustainability and climate change. The Chairman's challenge for the year was for all schools to become climate change experts and ensure that our students are 'fully informed and best placed to deal with the challenging world they will inherit'.

From the beginning of 2020, The Westminster School, Dubai, commenced a special mission to be a sustainable, carbon-neutral school. Upon partnering with eduCCate Global, I led the school to achieve the related Bronze and Silver Awards in record time, making us the largest school in the world to have achieved this status. Today, TWS is the Middle East's first, and to date only, 'Centre of Excellence in Sustainability and Climate Change Learning' and holds impressive green credentials. A total of 292 TWS teachers and leaders are now UN-certified Climate Change Teachers, and we aim to have a climate literacy teacher in every class.

TWS creatively expanded its eco-journey with an action plan led by our students, passionate teachers and me, highlighting high impact, medium impact and awareness-based action points.

We have achieved:

  1. High Impact – 43% reduction in paper in last three years
  2. Moderate Impact – Reduction of plastic by distributing jute bags to all staff
  3. Awareness Impact – Hosting and conducting the Green Vogue conference

I have also led four mega-programmes with the support of the eco teachers and students to bring in the best from the world outside for our students. 

GREEN VOGUE: First virtual sustainable fashion conference that brought together GEMS schools with industry leaders, educators, and environmentalists. It gave young people a platform to share their concerns and solutions for how the fashion industry can reduce its impact on the environment and tackle the exploitation of workers. Attended by 2,800 students, teachers and sustainability experts, the virtual event boasted a roster of guest keynote speakers.  

YOUTH VISION, GREEN SOLUTION (YVGS): Sustainable themed program for students competing for the best sustainable solution on the burning issues of climate. This three-week program was organised during April 2021. It aimed to create a difference towards climate change.  Student teams presented sustainable solutions based on real-life case studies. Topics covered were – Conditioning the Air Conditioner, Sustainable Diet, Technology in Agriculture, Coastline Reduction in the UAE and Wetlands in the UAE.

GREEN SOUQ (SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS SOURCING):  A climate change initiative to source sustainable solutions from industry experts who create change to make this world a better place to live. It aimed to encompass sustainable solutions that can be adapted individually to impact society significantly. Sustainable Solution Sourcing sought to adopt the objectives of Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet and Profit) of Social Enterprise in creating a broader effect. It focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of climate change. Eight renowned keynote speakers, consisting of environmentalists, climate change activists, and social entrepreneurs, graced the conference.

SAMMAN PROJECT: The project is an initiative to convert ordinary, unsold handloom material into a Samman for underprivileged mothers of newborns in war-torn areas in different parts of the world, supported by the United Nations Development Program. The Samman Project aims to convert the handloom materials sourced from weavers who find it difficult in these trying times to sell their stock into baby frocks, nappies, and baby sheets. The stakeholders of TWS participated wholeheartedly in this project and volunteered to design and stitch over 500 baby kits, including dresses, napkins, and nappy sheets. This Corporate social responsibility initiative of TWS proves the school's ongoing commitment to sustainable activities involving the entire school team.

What next?

Taking YVGS to the next level by executing the proposed solutions. Some of the solutions are:

  • using solar power as an energy source for the air conditioners by and using an alternative coolant,
  • Sustainable Diet policy: Implementation of "Fruitgies" sustainable menu in the school canteen,
  • Technology in Agriculture: Implementing aquaponics/hydroponics to promote the research of these systems, providing students with a platform to develop skills and practice sustainability and continue to reduce the consumption of paper setting a target of 60% decrease.

The best thing about our climate change and sustainability work at TWS, Dubai, is that students now drive it. Moreover, all our teachers are fully trained Climate Change Educators.

Leave Your views & comments here

2 Comments Sort By

Hebatalah Hussein Abdelkader

9 months ago

Congratulations ma'am.

Hebatalah Hussein Abdelkader

9 months ago

She's really the mother and hardworking manager.

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