The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is revamping a popular outreach programme, conceived to hook children early on to science and research, and tweaking it to reflect a thrust on technology and exposing children to the “innovation cycle.” The INSPIRE Awards (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research), as they are now called, will be rechristened MANAK (Million Minds AugmentingNational Aspirations and Knowledge) from this year. Since the scheme’s inception in 2010, around 13.85 lakh students have been funded according to the INSPIRE website. This, according to officials, is a “reformulation” of the existing programme and reflects a thrust on original ideas, which aim to use technology to solve problems, rather than merely display a clever idea for an exhibition. This year, if all goes to plan, 60 of the best ideas would be worked upon by professional engineers and designers and taken up for potential commercial development with intellectual property rights for the children. The DST is also concerned that too many children — goaded by competitive parents and schools — weren’t being creative enough and relying on readymade exhibits.To address that, it will employ the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) — the Gujarat-based organisation that specialises in scouting for rural innovators — to winnow ideas that weren’t original.
“We are not looking for high technology,” said Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, “We just want to recognise the spark in the idea… cultivate independent thinking and recognising problems from surroundings and suggesting solutions.”
The existing INSPIRE Awards programme, according to Mr. Sharma, emphasised science-fair models rather than take students through the innovation chain. Science fairs organised in schools, he rued, have spawned an industry of its own, like “coaching classes.” The NIF would use its database to ensure that recycled ideas were largely eliminated and original ones emerge. “It doesn’t have to look attractive or require professional help. [The NIF] will have an army of people to assess this,” he added, “So it’s a re-incarnation of INSPIRE.”
Best science ideas
The INSPIRE Awards are part of a larger INSPIRE programme, initiated by the previous government in 2010 to attract — and retain — talented students, collegians and doctorates to careers in science via scholarships and early-career support.THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the cut-off date set for August 12 to apply for the Prime Minister's Swachh Vidyalaya Award under Swachh Bharat Mission, Kerala is yet to catch up this year. While, United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) with Rotary International in Kerala has set the target for implementing it in 2222 schools across the state this year.
Instituted by Union ministry of human resources development (MHRD), the awards are given at three levels including district, state and national level. At the district level, maximum of 48 schools can be awarded annually. At state level, 40 schools can be awarded annually and at national level, 100 schools can be awarded nationally. Besides, 10 best performing districts will be given awards at the national level.
For getting awards, each school needs to download the application through mobile app, fill up the application and then submit. The schools will be ranked out of 100 marks on four sub categories - water (22 marks), toilet (28 marks), hand washing with soap (20 marks), operation and maintenance (15 marks), behavior change and capacity building (15 marks). For granting awards, committees have to be constituted at district, state and at national level. All schools have to be physically verified before giving awards. The national level award will be announced on Aug 25 and the selected will be conferred the award at the national award function on Sept 5.
Swachh Vidyalaya concept aims at ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene in schools and the package covers safe drinking water, toilets and hand wash station with soaps in schools across the country. Last year, the Union government had declared that 2.86 toilets were constructed in schools across the country as part of the initiative with Kerala among few other states achieving total sanitation. The campaign last year in Kerala was launched by UNICEF with Sarva Siksha Abiyan (SSA) and Rotary International. Last year, the state government claims to have set up 172 toilets in 150 schools, in addition to making around 550 toilets usable in rural schools.
"UNICEF has entered into an agreement with Rotary International last year to implement Swachh Vidyalaya initiative in Kerala, with annual maintenance contract by which sanitary units constructed will be maintained by them. It was implemented in over 1000 schools in parts of Kerala and it is planned to extend it to over 2000 schools this year, UNICEF Tamilnadu and Kerala chief Job Zachariah told TOI.
Each Sanitary Unit in a school will comprise of Safe drinking Water Facility, Separate toilets for girls and boys, Hand Washing system with about 15 taps so that as many children can wash their hands at a time and taps will be in multiple hues decorated in steel, plastic among other wares to attract the children and to inculcate the hand washing habit before and after food, he said.
"Swachh Vidyalaya initiative is planned for launch in 2222 schools in five districts of Kerala this year including Kottayam, Alappuzha, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Pathanamthitta. In addition, it was implemented in around 1500 schools in Kerala last year, mostly in Kottayam district," Rotary International secretary Shibu Peter said.
SSA officials indicate that five schools were selected last year at state level under Swachh Vidyalaya and applications sent to MHRD, this year they are yet to get the intimation. Officials said, Kerala has already achieved total sanitation and there are separate toilets for girls and boys in each school.