Yuva - India

We can never save Paper – The story of ‘Examination Rooms’

Remember when they spoke about people who cut trees to make paper and on the very paper write ‘Save Trees’ in bold and confident letters? Exactly!

Students, ever wondered what happens to all those practical records and project books you submit with just a few pages written? Ever wondered what happens to the thick answer sheets provided to us in exams that we rarely use in its entirety? Or the bunch of ‘hard copies’ we have to submit in places that could have easily managed with the ‘soft’ versions of the documents? And no, they are not always recycled. All this while, I kept believing that the institutions which always lecture us about saving paper made conscious efforts to do so themselves. But when I realised the truth, it left me nothing short of shocked.


Recently, when I had the rare opportunity to enter my institute’s ‘Examination Room’, the sight that met my eyes head-on was of ceiling-high piles of papers covered in a layer of dust so thick that I had to cover my face even though I had a mask on. Some polite questioning of the In-charge led to the clarification that those were records of former students, project books, practical records and a few old answer sheets among others. In short, the stuff rotting in that huge hall was the very paper we were taught to save from when we first learnt how to read. I am pretty confident that this scenario is not unique to my institute. The room might have another name, but there are only a few schools or colleges that recycle paper instead of stacking them in some corner of their building.


All of us are well aware of the hows and whys of saving paper, but do we actually do so? Some of us might make an affirmative claim but deeper introspection shall reveal that the answer is actually no. Quite interesting how almost all of us have come across the data that around 20 huge trees- trees that someone must have spent a lifetime growing- go into the making of just one ton of paper, yet we put no efforts into saving it. But actually, there is a reason why it is so. We fail to save paper because we are only verbally taught to do so and never see paper being saved practically.


Students are asked to prepare practical records from as early as 8th grade. Mostly these 70-80 Rs ‘records’ with an average of 172 pages, consist of five to ten written pages if not less. Students are not allowed to retain and reuse these books either! They have to submit them in their schools from where they will either be taken to the famed ‘Examination Room’ or- hold your breath- be burnt. Yes, the entire efforts of the students, the hard earned money of their parents, and the paper we are supposed to save; all reduced to ashes.


Let’s not forget notebooks. For a student of elementary school, how many notebooks does a single subject need? One? Two? Some of you might be surprised to know that even a fourth grader may need to prepare upto six notebooks for a single subject! Homework notebook, classwork notebook, practice notebook; separate notebooks for each term even if the previous ones have not been completely used. If these instructions coming from those very teachers who taught us to ‘Save Paper, Save Trees’ is not ridiculous, I don’t know what is.


Let us keep the junior classes aside for a while. Examinations are held for students of all ages and people of all social groups. Higher level exams come with answer sheets consisting of upto sixty pages at times! Of these, how many do you think are fully used? Practically none. Alright, so are these blank pages used to make new sheets? No, instead these pages are striked out, by the examiner if not the examinee, so that they cannot be used further.  A sheet that was supposed to carry the proof of a student’s intelligence carries a single red line. To where you ask; back to the ‘Examination Room’.


Let’s even stop the rants of a frustrated student and go beyond student life. Copies of identity cards, certificates et cetera are asked from employers and employees alike, right? When we live in a digital world, why does the ridiculous demand to “Mail in the soft copy now and submit the hard copy later.” even exist? Agreed that not everyone is comfortable with digital stuff, but can’t we even provide an alternative? We debate on the advantages of computer and the internet at lengths, but are we using it to the fullest? What is the point of collecting physical copies if it can be managed with other alternatives? Is this not just the creation of an office equivalent of ‘Examination Room’?


21st century has seen a histrionic development in the field of science and technology. We are at such a juncture where the use of paper itself should be minimal. Yet not only are we using paper for unnecessary purposes but also wasting it. All while raising slogans of ‘Save Paper, Save Trees, Save The Earth’. I can clearly see irony having a hearty laugh in the corner.


When a child, with minimum understanding of the world, observes that he is basically being asked to use paper extravagantly without any concern for the consequences, won’t he assume that he is being taught the phrase ‘Save Paper’ only to be used in speeches and essays? Why just paper, won’t he assume that every value-based teaching he has ever received is only for the sake of teaching alone? It’s high time that schools actually start doing what they teach their students to do. It’s high time this tradition of wasting paper in the guise of collecting information and stacking them against a wall stops. It’s high time for the doors of ‘Examination Rooms’ to be shut forever.


It is not only disappointing but also sad that even though we advocate it all the time, very few of us make any actual efforts to save paper. And truth be told, as long as the place we are supposed to learn in refuses to lead by example and has a structure like the ‘Examination Room’, we can never truly save paper. Sure, there are exceptions. But when the good part becomes an exception, it becomes the call of the hour for us to re-evaluate ourselves and find out where we went wrong.

Megha Satapathy

Intern, Goa Chronicle

Tags: #SavePaper, #SaveTrees, #GoGreen, #GolderR’s, #Reduce, #Reuse, #Recycle,  

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