A unique effort in reinforcing self-confidence and unleashing creativity in economically disadvantaged Bengali Children

India  Child Education

Image by Sumanth Garakarajula via Flickr

Joydhak - the group that publishes a top Bengali children's online magazine of the same title, continues to make interesting and practical contributions towards energizing and inspiring coming generations of Bengalis by organizing unique camps and workshops for children of Bengal who are growing up in rural and semi-rural, often economically challenged, areas.

The editor of Joydhak brought to our attention the fascinating experiment called "Sishu Kishore Vikaas Mela" (Child & Youth Development Fair) - a series of annual camps and workshops, started a dozen years ago.

The Sishu Kishore Vikash Mela camps, using practical techniques in alternative education, reinforce self-confidence and attempts to unleash inherent creativity in children, with emphasis on independent though, problem solving abilities, encouragement for asking questions, and have fun all through.

The Bengali public school system is an interesting mix of the British schooling system combined with a peculiar local form of schooling called "paathshala" which presumably has roots in timeless Sanskrit-based ashrams run by Pundits thousands of years ago. Many people in India have grown up with the maxim of "spare the rod and spoil the child", and one should not be surprised if one sees such wisdom still being followed in rural and semi-urban schools in India.

Sishu Kishore Vikash Mela is a residential camp, i.e. selected children are transported to the camp, and the children live there, participating in various activities that unlock hitherto unexplored parts of their minds, learn skills like independent thinking, develop healthy doses of curiosity, and such traits that make them better capable of contributing meaningfully to society later on. In contrast to a stick-wielding teacher prone on beating children who do not perform per their directions, such a camp must be a boon for the children attending them.

Here is an excerpt from Joydhak's blog that is a translation of a writing by a camp attendee:

"I study in a free primary school. The school is actually a big shop that accommodates 63 of us and a stick wielding teacher. One day he called the names of a few of us and told that we shall be going for a camp. The place was Jambani, near Shantiniketan.

This was the first time I traveled in a railway train. The breakfast , served during the journey in train, was frugal. From the railway station we were taken to the venue by a bus. It was a big, walled school building with lots of trees and a pond inside. Once out of the bus, we all started running inside the compound. The ground was pebbly and hurting but so what! It was a beautiful feeling to be able to run undisturbed, without having to think about any rushing vehicle. Can anyone run like that in our town? I was really missing my siblings. If they could also come!!

After the initial commotion we settled down in some of the classrooms. A large plastic had been spread on the floor. We were to sleep there. We had carried some rudimentary bedding with us for that.

After a  little time and another frugal snacks we went out to explore the place.  The primary section of the school is housed on the backyard of the main block. It’s mid-day meal kitchen , standing beside a well, has been made into our camp kitchen for next one week. A nice leaning tree stood there. Many of us tried our hands at climbing the tree.  Some went near the pond and sat beside it. Somehow we were forming small groups of hitherto unknown persons. A big girl suddenly approached me and took me to see the cooking going on in the kitchen. Some of our moms and sisters who had accompanied us in the camp were assisting in the cooking. They were chatting among themselves. There was fun and frolic everywhere. Once again I missed my mom and sis. If only they could come!

Visit Joydhak's blog and contribute to Joydhak with your encouragement, positive feedback, or if you so wish, in a more tangible means.

- WBRi News

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