CHENNAI: Sultan Ahmed Ismail wears many hats — teacher, environmentalist, soil biologist, and developer of the concept of ‘vermitech’. Equally passionate whether talking about children’s education, about zero waste systems or about his opposition to genetically modified organisms, his 40 years of being a scientist and teacher have helped him win many hearts and minds along the way.
“Earthworms have taught me a lot, about burrowing through difficulties, about composting and about waste management,” he says, speaking to teachers at a one-day workshop on environment at the Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre in Kotturpuram.
Reinforcing the importance of traditional, chemical-free food, he urges people not to get carried away by brands and multinational food companies. “When you go to buy fruit or vegetables, pick mangoes where flies are sitting, and pick spinach with holes. Those are the ones without pesticides,” he says. “More natural colour means better health.”
Children today are bombarded with technology and pressure from all sides, stifling creativity. “Education on iPads is ridiculous,” he states, pointing out how reading a book allows every child to form a different picture while an iPad shows every child the same picture.
“Do not label children,” he cautions teachers, adding how numerous classifications have introduced new disabilities and ‘special education’. “Today, everyone is carried away by names like Asperger’s syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder. Someone weak in maths is said to have ‘dyscalculia’ and someone with bad writing ‘dysgraphia’.”
From coming up with a blog — ‘Simple Tasks Great Concepts’ — that has a list of 100 experiments that children can do without labs, to travelling to villages to propagate organic farming and partnering with schools and colleges, Ismail’s work won praise from a diverse group _ an organic farmer in Tiruvallur, college principals and chief guest at the event Hakim Khaleefatullah, physician and unani expert.
A booklet and stamp felicitating Sultan Ismail was released at the event.