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Monday, December 3, 2012

When the class becomes a stage

Actor Swaroop Sampat Rawal conducted a workshop on Life Skills for KGBV students and teachers in Vadodara

Eisha Sarkar
Published in Success Stories in Education Gujarat 2012 by UNICEF and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

A group of 30 adolescent girls stand in the formation of a circle in the middle of a large conference hall at the Lords Inn Revival Hotel in Vadodara. In the centre a few girls pose as statues - a dog, a bent old woman, a truck and a salesman. There's a clap and they all change their postures. "Good!" All heads in the circle turn to the tall figure of Swaroop Sampat Rawal, the 53-year-old film and theatre actor who walks to towards the still figures.

It's a six-day Life Skills' Workshop and Rawal, who holds a PhD in Education, is teaching the children from the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs) from all over Gujarat and the eight teachers who have accompanied them, the importance of enacting plays in the classroom. "It will help you memorize a story and enhance your creativity and imagination," she tells them. The children agree and jump with excitement, when Rawal announces that they will play the "wink-and-you-die" detective game, Killer, next. 

"We never thought we could do so much with a simple story - make statues, create masks or even draw out the whole story," says Bhavisha Govindbhai Makhansha, a 22-year-old teacher from Arambha KGBV in Dwarka Taluka in Jamnagar district. Before she had come here, Makhansha's idea of a training program was taking down copious notes on KGBV rules, making charts and creating/answering questionnaires. "This is the first time I've attended a workshop where I have explored my creativity and imagination through actvities. I do want to come back for another one," she pleads. 

Sonal Masribhai Mariya, a 14-year-old, who studies in Standard VIII at Bhatia KGBV, Kalyanpur, Jamnagar, echoes her teacher's sentiments. "I did not even know what emotions (bhavana) or communication (pratyay) were before I had come here. This workshop has introduced to me such concepts which will help me lead a better life. What I liked the most about this is that I have now got into a habit of writing a diary. I never knew I could record and reflect my thoughts in this way."   

Nita Galchand, who studies in Standard VII at the Jhalela KGBV in Ahmedabad, has developed the confidence to even face the camera when a TV crew drops in to cover the workshop. Nita, who earlier labored in the farms with her parents, joined the KGBV a year ago. "I have never been to a city before. I love it here - the training, the hotel and all the people I get to meet. I now want to learn English, the way city people speak it," she declares.  

For 25-year-old Krupa Dasratbhai Patel, a teacher at a KGBV in Dahod, this workshop with students has been a better learning experience than the one she participated in with other teachers the week before. "Though many of the activities which Rawal conducted were the same with both the groups, I could open up much more this time because I knew I would not be judged by the others. I also learnt a lot about how children react to each other and us in different situations. I want to go back to my KGBV and share all the games and activities I learnt here with the other teachers. Then, we can introduce the activities to the 102 students. I am sure the children will open up much more if we introduce statues and games," she notes. This training has also helped the teachers come together to share their views on KGBVs' activities and rules. "We lead a difficult life. It's a 24-hour job - taking care of the girls and looking after the KGBV itself. Most teachers are in their 20s. I think we need at least one middle-aged teacher who could be a mother-figure to the girls," she suggests, when asked what would help to improve the conditions of a KGBV.

During the six-day workshop, which has been hosted by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and funded and facilitated by UNICEF, the group will learn about:
  • Understanding emotions
  • Understanding self
  • Effective communication
  • Empathy
  • Decision-making

Aarti Prajapati, the Officer-in-Charge for Gender at SSA in Vadodara says the aim of this workshop is to give these girls an exposure to this kind of training. "Most of these girls were out of school children who now live in these residential schools, the KGBVs. Many of them come from poor financial backgrounds and have had little or no exposure to the outside world. Some were even forced to work as child laborers before they joined the KGBVs." The workshop, she says will enable them to learn more about the outside world. "Nearly 70 per cent of them have never been to a city before so we had to actually tell them a little about how they should behave in a city like this and in a hotel of this size," she adds. "The girls are getting on well," adds Dhruti Mankodi, District Education and Early Childhood Education (ECE) Consultant. "They've become more confident and are willing to share their thoughts and ideas with each other and even their teachers." 

While the children enjoy participating in the activities, a couple of teachers however feel as if they've been left out. "I liked it only about 75 per cent because the activities and games were mainly focused on the children," says Neelam Sosa, the 23-year-old principal of Veraval's KGBV in Junagadh district. "However, I did learn that though what we have been doing at our KGBVs was not wrong, we could do things more differently to make the atmosphere better for learning," she adds. 

"While the focus is mainly children, the teachers are expected to participate in all the activities during this workshop so that they can understand the importance of communication in the classroom," says Rawal. "You cannot teach Child Rights through a lecture. Through drama in a classroom, you can learn about even complex subjects such as democracy and citizenship. We have to change the quality of education," she says. Workshops such as this one will help change the way teachers and students think of it, for sure.    


Swaroop said...

Just read this ...well done Eisha!
Lovely pics...wish you would send them to me! Swaroop

Engvarta said...

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