SOUNDS OF CHALLENGE
The reopening of school from September enabled me to start a pilot intervention in the primary school located at the Van Gujjar Basti close to the Chidiyapur forest range. The planned intervention focused on engaging the children through stories and associated activities. The children were coming over back to school after 18 months. There was an apprehension among children. During the initial days we used to visit homes to call the children each day, in addition to the peer networking that we did. They took some time to get accustomed to the classroom space. The good part being they could find similar faces in the class who belonged to their neighbourhood and community.
The pandemic has impacted the learning level of children and increased the learning gap amongst children. The challenge was to understand the level of children in the beginning and selectively pick up stories which could fit in the context of children and at the same it is activity based. This was evident from the playful assessments (pre) we did with the children over games, conversations, quizzes etc. At one end were children with falling learning levels and on the other was school administration struggling to engage children regularly following the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).
So, in this scenario I had limited time to engage with children and it took extended time to get to know children.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
As I got the opportunity to engage and hold sessions coupled with school relaxing norms children started to come over. Over the last 6 months my engagement in the school increased and I was able to engage children through stories. Scheduled sessions with children across classes, setting in place an activity schedule etc.
Since I did storytelling in Hindi and children belonged to Van Gujjar community who spoke gojri dialect, it was also a challenge for young children initially. So, to overcome this challenge I focused on improving my Gojri (spoken) language by having conversation in Gojri dialect. The children smiled, laughed but at the same time enabled my learning. Similarly to select a book for children was a conscious decision which refined with regular discussion with the team and students itself.
Coordination with the staff, school has been smooth as we followed a rigor in our approach. Our work with the communities and bottoms up approach has been fundamental in our acceptance by all stakeholders.
I believe stories and storytelling are one of the most engaging techniques where facilitators can talk about various subjects and stimulate the minds of children. So, I intended to utilise stories to improve the learning level of children and understand acceptance of stories from children.
GUNEET is the writer for this piece. He is an expert storyteller, you can view his videos on the official Samanta Foundation - YouTube and Instagram Reels channels.