Both school-going and non school-going children attend the informal education classes at ISST''s Community Centre. As a result, many children not currently enrolled in formal schooling are motivated to do so. Besides general education classes that cover language and maths according to age group, the centre also engages the children in a variety of extra-curricular activities. This includes activities in painting, singing, dancing, reading and the watching of films; a small group of children also participate in the theatre group Nakshatra and have formed a Bal Sansad.
Commonwealth Games Programme
In anticipation of the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi, staff at the SAATHI Centre are currently conceputalising a new set of activities and projects that will involve and educate youth in sports. The Commonwealth Games is a multi-national, multi-sport event. Held every four years, it involves elite athletes of the Commonwealth of Nations; attendance at the Commonwealth Games is typically around 5,000 athletes. The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is the organisation responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games.
The purpose of this programme activity is to familiarise our adoloscent participants with the different sports listed as Commonwealth Games and, if possible, prepare them as volunteers for the Delhi 2010 games. For this, the process of providing information on all listed sports, as well as training in these wherever possible, has already begun. All requisite information, such as the origin of the sport, basic rules, famous players, champion nations, and playing nations are discussed. The programme will be a multimedia exploration of the world of sports, and will use presentations, stories, comics, field trips and films to enhance learning.
In 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 our children participated in the following workshops:
Thus far three theatre workshops have been conducted. The first was held in November 2006 and was led by Agash Saxena from National School of Drama, and the second, in June 2007 during the summer camp, was led by Ankit Sharma. Both workshops were huge successes in terms of participation and results, especially as the two street plays that the Nakshatra team came up with were highly praised at all performance grounds. The third workshop was led by Rohit Tripathi from NSD and was held in October 2007.
A breakdown of this workshop''s activities is given below to highlight the creative approach to learning and skills building that is promoted throught the theatre group. The workshop began with different mental and physical exercises for the participants and concluded with the preparation of a play. An introductory ice-breaking session was conducted with the children. Games were played with the purpose of augmenting the children''s confidence on stage. Thereafter, the schedule for the rest of the workshop was decided upon in a participatory manner to include:
Physical and mental exercises (3- 4 pm)
Story telling (4- 4:30 pm)
Improvisation (4:30- 5 pm)
The second day began with the enactment of different emotions by all participants, such as laughter, joy, sadness etc. Later, three stories with different themes were shared, and the children were asked to act these out using improvisation. After watching the improvisations, Rohit ji spoke with the children about the process of improvisation in theatre and in other creative art forms. On the third day, all participants were asked to prepare a play about impoverished labourers struggling through the festivals of Dussehra and Diwali. On the fourth, the children were given the script for a play and asked to give a performance. The fifth day began with a reading of the script of a play, ''Vaise to sab khair kushal hai''. The play is a commentary on the inequalities in our society and how these can be done away with. Later, participants were assigned characters based upon their performances. On day six the allocation of all the roles to various participants was finalised. During the seventh session, the children began work on their respective roles and preparation for the play thus began. Participants continued working on their roles and the preparation of the play.
Life Skill Workshops
In March 2007, Sandhan (an NGO working in Jaipur) invited our children to attend a Life Skill workshop. Fourteen adolescents and three staff members attended the three day workshop. This was a wonderful opportunity for these children to travel outside Delhi and gain exposure to other areas. The workshop addressed social skills, emotional strength, negotiation skills, and how to combat violence, all through role playing. Participants also engaged in discussions on topics such as happiness, responsibility, motivation and health, including misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.
The group of adolescents who travelled to Jaipur came back so energised that they decided to hold another workshop during the Summer Camp with the children who were unable to attend the one in Jaipur. The response to the Life Skill workshop conducted at the SAATHI centre by these fourteen children is worth noting, and participation was commendable.
Workshop on Comics
The idea for a workshop on comics with children developed out of ISST''s desire to provide children with a new mode of communicating and articulating their feelings. It was felt that this would help enhance their creativity as well. Experts from the NGO, World Comics India, which first established grassroots comics in India, took an immense interest in carrying out the six day workshop with the children and instilling in them an interest in the power of the comic! Although participation was optional for the children, around fifty-two children came on the first day of the workshop and twenty-two got passionately involved and stayed until the last day. The results were surprising. At the end of the workshop forty-four poster comics on a range of issues were completed. On the final day of the six day workshop, participants were elated to see their own comics displayed on the walls of the Centre. The wonder of being able to create one''s own poster (after days of hard work) gave the children an immense sense of achievement and inspired them to further pursue their interest.
The issues presented in their stories reflected the different dimensions of the problems they face in everyday life. From the deteriorating quality of education in their schools, to the demolition of the slums they reside in, corruption in ration shops, domestic violence, alcoholism, and the corrupt behaviour of police and other political leaders, many critical concerns were articulated through this immensely powerful, yet enjoyable media. Most of the children explained in the workshop discussions that while they encounter many problems, they had never thought of sharing them with others through any medium. Their newfound knowledge of creating comics will help them communicate their thoughts and ideas to a larger audience and will also provide them with a powerful communication tool.
After the workshop, the twenty-two participants and the cofacilitator had a few meetings and decided to follow-up on the interest in comics that had developed. The children suggested starting a comic club where they would meet once a week to discuss issues and their stories and create comic posters. They collectively decided to come up with the name ''Munna Bhai Comics Club''. Currently, the club meets every Friday to work on designing one comic per person. They also plan to carry their comics to the community and exhibit them in the market place and in schools; they will also try to publish in local newspapers. The children are keen to know how their comics would be perceived and how they would impact readers.
Book Binding Workshop
The workshop was led by a 14 year old boy, Shaan-e-alam, who is a participant at ISST''s centre in Vinod Nagar. Book binding has been a source of income for him for a while now. Shaan-e-alam spoke to the children about the significance of books in our lives and thus the need to value and maintain them. He also taught the children how to make glue. Later, he explained the complete process of binding books on white board. The actual process of book binding was executed and completed by all the participants with Shaan-e-alam. The entire workshop was carried out in an interactive and cooperative manner. The rationale behind organising the workshop was that binding the library books on their own would give the children a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the books. It would also be an additional skill that could be used to earn some money. This workshop also augmented Shaan-e-alam''s confidence and helped him better value his skill. Eighteen girls and five boys took part in the workshop.