As a part of the India Fellow program, I am working with Centre for Social Justice in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, to use communication for Social Change. As all the fellows get placed with different organizations across the country, we have this opportunity to know their work and teams as well. But, with our own project commitments and other fellowship activities, it becomes difficult to visit anyone. So, I jumped on the chance I got recently to go meet my co-fellows at their host organization, Kshamtalaya Foundation, in Udaipur. They are three of them working with children in one school each.
First of all, I am extremely grateful to all the members of the organization for a warm welcome and their hospitality. They helped me to learn, unlearn and relearn the basics of childhood that I had forgotten long back.
When I entered, the office was full of 35-40 people who were employees, volunteers and fellows. They were preparing for their upcoming event – “The Learning Festival“, where they host a festival in schools and villages for children. The idea is for them to learn from different activities like dance, drama, sports, board games, art & craft, puppetry etc. It is designed as a 10-day event where fellows working at Kshamtalaya organize events in their respective schools. The 10 days are divided into 4 parts:
- Day 1 & 2 for facilitators to do all the logistical arrangements
- Day 3 to 8 for activities they will do in respective skill-sets
- 9th day is for preparing children to create something out of what they have learnt in days 3 to 8.
- Last day is for performances.
On the day I visited, they were working on an idea to create a prototype of the same event in three days. All 35-40 of them were going to be the facilitators for learning festival. They were the experienced folks in the organization who prepared a detailed plan and schedule for their activities.
Since I really enjoy dance, I joined a group called ‘Creative Dance Studio’. It’s always fun to dance but this time it was exceptional, specially because I have never related dance with learning and emotional expression. The idea was to enable children to express their emotions creatively with dance as a medium. Pooja, the facilitator and a dance therapist introduced us to the activities. The main 6-day event was divided on the basis of certain themes:
- Day 1: Self-exploration and getting familiar with movement and creative dance
- Day 2: Expression using Props
- Day 3: Understanding Emotions
- Day 4: Exploring rhythms within Self
- Day 5 & 6: Choreography to present the voice of their expressions
Now all the daily activities were divided into four phases:
- Body preparatory exercises or warm-ups: Slow-paced movements are used to prepare participants mentally and physically to receive more complex movements in the course of a session. Warm-ups usually last about fifteen minutes.
- Theme development: Here, the therapeutics of dance unfolds through a combination of movement experiences done individually, in pairs or in small clusters. People are constantly urged to be in touch with their feelings and express themselves as authentically as possible.
- Cool down: In this phase, movements slow down to include breathing with gentle stretches of the body. Usually, participants work individually with relaxation techniques from martial arts, dance or yoga. The entire group could also go through communal movements holding hands, which then becomes a ‘goodbye’ dance.
- Closure: The facilitator moderates a verbal sharing process with participants sitting in a circle. He/she invites individual feedback about the session, relationship with others in group, what they enjoyed or found difficult (physically or emotionally). Depending on the group members, the duration of a closure varies.
It was told that the content of each day might differ according to the lesson plans and goals set by facilitators. But in the prototype, she tried following all that’s mentioned above.
A lot of props were used, for example Ribbons, Newspaper, Charts, Face Masks etc. The main aim was to learn more about yourself and your surroundings. I benefited with tips on self-awareness about my emotions, something I never did in my school. At the end of each day, there used to be a Debrief session where we shared our learning, how the activities helped us and how it would be useful for the ‘Bacchas’ in schools.
On the last day of performance, I heard Vivek Kumar, co-founder of Kshamtalaya saying, “If we see the condition of education today and hear the frequent news of question papers being leaked with students crying for it, we know there’s something missing. It has gone beyond repair. We must re-imagine learning & education and recreate the system, which is what we are trying to do through the learning festival.”
Kshamtalaya Foundation is working with different schools in Rural Rajasthan, Delhi and Karnataka. They also run a fellowship called iDiscover where they place fellows to work with schools in village of Rajasthan. I believe organizations like Kshamtalaya are a hope for the kind of education system we wish to see. Know more about them here.