How We Used Literature, Music And Dance To Empower Children From Rural Govt Schools

It is said that “wherever you reach in your life, never forget the roots you come from.”

One day, I got a call from Mr Rahul Mehta, who is a social entrepreneur and had spent a decade working for women empowerment, child development issues and childline services. He led Chhotanagpur Sanskritik Sangh, an organisation working for gender issues and many other organisations. He offered our team a workshop, to train children in poster making, story-telling, story-writing, poem writing, regional song, regional dance, one-act play, etc.

Firstly, we were unaware of the idea. We were in a dilemma about whether we should take it up or not. Then, we had questions about our responsibilities. What will we do with the children? What age will the children be? Were they from rural or urban areas? We were puzzled by so many questions.

Finally, the day came when we, (my team & Rahul Mehta), went for the interview with the host organisation CINI (Child In Need Institute), Ranchi. We presented our plan for a three-day workshop for children, in the interview. During the interview, we got to know about the basic idea of the workshop. Before that, we had prepared a normal presentation and proposal. But, our team had been selected based on our idea of the workshop.

Photograph with children after completion of the event.

My team includes Himanshu, Ashok, Rahul and Rohit. Himanshu is a student of Journalism from Ranchi University, and works with Restless Development, as a Youth Accountability Advocate, just like I do. He is also a part of a theatre group, named “Rangdarpan”. Whereas Rangdarpan is led by Ashok, he is a student of performing arts. Rahul is a student of B.Sc Mathematics and a part of the Rotaract Club of St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi. This multi-talented guy hails from a rural background. Rohit is a student of Bachelor in Journalism and a part of “Rangdarpan”.

The name of the program was the “Children Literary Festival”. Basically, this was a program of the Plan India Organisation, with Child In Need Institute, Integrated Development Foundation and Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra. They are working with schools of the Jharkhand government in Khunti, Hazaribagh and Chaibasa, especially in rural areas. The idea of the program is the “reduction of gender discrimination among young boys and girls in rural areas” through the help of art, like story-telling, story-writing, poster making, poem writing, slogan writing, book development, one-act play, regional dance, regional song, etc.

It was the 6th of January 2020 when we started the workshop. We met 30 young students between 10-16 years, out of which, 50% were girls and 50% were boys, from backward, rural backgrounds. They were full of energy, passion and an aim but were lacking in good accessibility of quality education, and good clothes because their fathers were either farmers or daily wage labourers.

Some fathers were alcoholics and some mothers used to sell ‘Handiya’ (local wine made up of boiled rice). In the cold weather of Ranchi, where the temperature touches to zero degree Celsius during New Year, most of the children did not even have proper winter clothes. None of the children, (out of all 30), had ever been to any city – it was their first time in a city. Their residence had been arranged in a good hotel in Ashok Nagar, Ranchi. Ashok Nagar is the place of residence of most bureaucrats and first-class working professionals in Ranchi. They saw so many beautiful bungalows for the first time in their entire lives.

Ice Breaking Session With The Children

In the workshop, we started with introductions, because we were told that they were from rural backgrounds, so they might not be vocal as we assumed. But during the three days of that workshop, it was surprising to see them full of confidence, with shining eyes, and hope, to achieve something in life.

We played a lot of games for the ice-breaking session. After that, we divided them into two groups: one for the art and culture, such as songs, dancing and acting, and another group, for poem writing, story-writing, story-telling, poster making, comics creation, slogan writing.

Himanshu, Ashok and Rohit mentored them in acting, dancing and singing. Agasti and Lalita were also on our team. They were mentoring them in regional songs and dance. Whereas, Rahul and I were managing the literature part. Sitaram Sir, an old man, with great experience in art and craft, was mentoring them in poster making. Rahul Sir was coordinating everything between us.

We had three days to prepare them for an event of four hours, led by children, for children. It was a difficult task because we did not know too much about the children and their expertise. But, on the first day of the workshop, we recognised their qualities. We told all of them to write stories bout their dreams and aspirations.

We started checking the stories and were amazed to know about their dreams and see their articulation. We selected two girls (Surbhi and Simran) for story-telling for their own written stories. We also selected a girl names Jyoti, and a boy Amar, as anchors for the final event. A group of 12 children was formed for the act and three-four groups were formed for the regional dance and song.

The Trainer team Rahul Mehta, Shishu Ranjan, Agasti, Lalita, Himanshu, Ashok. (Left to Right).

Any normal theatre group starts preparing at least a month before any kind of one-act play. But this group of children prepared the one-act play in two days under the mentorship of Himanshu, Ashok and Rohit. We were also there but we were helping in other ways.

Surbhi and Simran were confident about story-telling but they were lacking in expression and action, so I worked on them. Finally, they improvised their actions and expression. Amar and Jyoti worked very hard for the anchoring part because both were also involved in other events.

Finally, the 9th of January came. We went to Hotel BNR Chanakya; it is a 3-star luxury hotel in the state capital Ranchi. It was my second visit to the same hotel, but the hotel of that stature was also my dream, in addition to theirs. It was surprising for them because they did not believe that they would be organising an event there. We boosted their motivation inside the hall.

Many scholars and social workers were present there to see their event. They performed every event with perfection. It was almost unbelievable to seem them perform this well because they had slept late the previous night due to the training. Some people also gave long lectures for their last rehearsal performance the night before. But, after all, they did their best in each and every event. Every child got a bag and a participation certification.

Emotional GoodByes

Three days of bonding with them was about to get over. But, they were so happy after receiving the appreciation of renowned people in that dream-like hotel. It was like an achievement of their dreams. It was a very emotional moment when we were leaving each other.

It was a state-level programme for them, but certainly not the last. Because the national event is waiting for them. Some of them will be selected for ‘Nationals’ held in Hyderabad. Again, they will get a chance to take their dreams a step further. 

Best wishes children. Touch the Sky.

Children with their certificates.

 

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