Training Programmes

Fourty five days of children's summer camp on value creation

The  Rengaprabhat Childern’s Theatre   situated  at Alumthara, a sleepy village about  20 kilometers  north of Trivandrum city in Kerala was the scene of a very novel children’s educational programme this summer. This Centre  which is forty years old now  has been over the years organizing various innovative  programmes to initiate children particularly in value creation through arts, crafts, performing arts, ,music child games, lullabies, story- telling, puppetry  and a host of other creative expressions.

This  experiment, the first of its kind  in India when it began four decades ago under the inspiration of the doyen of Indian drama, Prof.G.Sankara Pillai, was ably led by his disciple  Kochunarayana Pillai  until the latter passed away a couple of years ago.

The mantle of leadership has fallen on Dr.Radhakrishnan  who leads the campus now as its President with imaginative programmes in association with Smt.K.S.Geeta ,a renowned  artist, musician, actor, choreographer and researcher of folk arts and children’s education. Several national agencies such as the Birla Akademy for Arts ( New Delhi),Ministry of Culture, Sangeeta nataka Academy,G.Ramachandran-Ikeda Award committee  recognised the pioneering efforts of this organisation towards value creation through arts.

This year’s summer programme of 45 days- long was jointly organized by the Rangaprabhat , the Ikeda Centre for Value Creation and the Shanti Sena Training Centre. It stood out as a major initiative of children’s mobilization through arts and crafts.

The venue of the camp was  the  Children’s Theatre Complex and there were 120 children between the  age-group of 7 to 16. These children who were selected on the basis of their response to the press announcement on the camp hailed from the different parts of the Thiruvananthapuram District. They represented a cross section of the Kerala community, though the majority was from the depressed and less privileged segment of the society. Preference was given to those who came from backward and socially marginalized sections of the community.

Though initially the organizers were considering of admitting only about a hundred children the overwhelming response both from children and their parents encouraged the camp management to admit as  many  as  120 children. Eighty of them were girls while the remaining forty were boys.

The programme was inaugurated on April 4  at  an impressive gathering of parents, resource persons and children. Sri Harikrishnan, Director of the balbhavan welcomed  while  Dr N.Radhakrishnan  presided. The Chief Guest of the function was the distinguished theatre expert Prof.S.Ramanujam. The other dignitories present on the occasion were Pirappankode Murali( former MLA), Sri Nanda Kumar,IAS( Director,Public Relations, Government of Kerala)Both Sri Murali and Sri Nanda Kumar hailed the efforts of the organisers  as outstanding and revolutionary.

Dr  Radhakrishnan   explaining the objective of the  programme  said, “This programme which we expect will be children-centred will offer the participating children such opportunities that may initiate them into experiencing  creative thinking , innovative experiential learning and full participatory community initiatives. The focus of the entire camp will be to    offer children such situations that will help them to unburden themselves from the tension of the present-day education set-up by making full use of the creative aspect of value creation through arts particularly performing arts. Instead of any forced and stereotyped programmes, what the children will see  and experience during the camp period  here will be an experiment which fosters creativity and value creation going hand-in-hand  in order to help children develop positive attitude through live situations .

A team of artists and  educators with over four decades of experience in path-breaking experiments in children’s education and value creation with determination are in command of this 45day -long programme.

As Radhakrishnan has  stressed  at the orientation session to the instructors and facilitators of the programme this 45day  programme in community living nonviolent leadership, yuva shantisena etc is a cutain-raiser to a major effort being planned to be launched soon to emphasise the value of "giving the children their childhood back" and encouraging their parents and teachers to understand children  properly and treat them with compassion and love. To what extent adults are role models and trend-setters ?

On  the basis of our  experience in the field of value creation and education we are now convinced that sustained efforts are to be made at school level to inculcate values, leadership qualities, to foster reading habits, develop spirit of cooperation and compassion in an otherwise competitive and cruel environment in which the children grow. It is a long -felt that sustained efforts are to be made to inculcate in the children values for which appropriate educational inputs are to be provided right ( i) in the homes where they grow up, (ii)in the schools where they study and (ii) in the society where they blossom into adults. Unfortunately, very little attention is paid at the level of children’s education and precious little is done to catch the children young and lead them on with concrete and imaginative programmes which alone will generate in the children what the adult world always want the children to be”,Dr Radhakrishnan continued.

After the preliminaries the campers and their “ guides and care-takes”( as the resource persons were  identified and addressed) sat together under the general guidance of Prof.Ramanujam who took the children to the amazing world of Creative Dramatics for self expression and self discovery. What followed in the next two hours was a plethora of creative expressions which some of the children later admitted to be the first of their kind in their lives. The freedom the children enjoyed and the confidence they derived out of every step they took encouraged them to embark confidently on more creative expressions .What a child said next day at the review session was startling . He said,” there was none to find fault with  and none to supervise too”.

The Rangaprabhat Complex very fast  in the next days got conveted  into a scene of a plethora of activities by children . While one  area resonated with classical music, one could hear the rendering of folk music from another corner. Instrumental music,painting,puppetry,mural arts,clay modelling also attracted many of them. The children were given the option to choose as many items as possible for their involvement .Dance items and creative music were also the favourites of many of them.Painiting,clay modelling,group songs,story telling also attracted quite a few children.

Smt.Geeta and her team seem to have got transformed into inspired agents of human revolution as if they were doing certain things as a part of a divine mission .In fact this missionary spirit displayed   by Geeta paid rich dividends in the coming days as the programmes got themselves tightened up. The focus was to take the children from simple aspects to complex activities.

Voice training, yoga, meditation, prayer ,newspaper- reading and sharing of news among them,video viewing and film viewing were also part of the programmes. Moralising or denial of the children anything they are used to  were also avoided as  part of the general focus and guidelines issued by Dr.Radhakrishnan to the organisers. Special care was taken to encourage particiapation of children in the various activities .This was so becaue many children in the rural area shy away from group activities and hence group activities were encouraged inorder to foster group dyanamism as an important aspect of character formation.

Group activities for confidence building,  Individual focused efforts to enhance communicative competence  Leadership and self-management, Generate love of nature, The concept of My School/My Community  Inter personal relations and promote dialogue leading to     Highlighting the value of silenceYoga and meditation for concentration Peace building and conflict management

Taking out the children to the neighbouring villages to familiarise themselves with the crop and agricultural pattern ,tography of the lands, experience the biodiversity and interact among themselves on their experiences were also part of the camp activities. A team of children specialists were requested to evaluate the camp and they found the experiment highly encouraging and satisfying

Asha,a nine year old  said,” The camp offered me unforgettable experiences. I will miss all these friends from tomorrow .But Iam confident that I will strive to maintain contact with as many of them as possible .I value friendship and this camp was a great experiment in community living and value creation”

The medium of the entire programme is dominated by performing arts,music,dance,lullabies,child games,puppetry,story telling and story enacting poems composition,poetry recitals,short  story writing etc.

Perhaps  as one one newspaper reporter wrote in his column the monthlong summer programme,an innovative step designed and pioneered by Dr Radhakrishnan stands out as a major break through in inntiating children in the complex art of problem solving and that too nonviolent problem solving.

Care is being taken to maintain  the focus of the entire  summer camp  to offer children such situations that will help them to unburden themselves from the tension of the present-day education set-up by making full use of the creative aspect of value creation through arts particularly performing arts.,

Instead of any forced and stereotyped programmes, what the children  see  and experience during the camp period  here is an experiment which fosters creativity and value creation going hand-in-hand.in order to help children develop positive attitude through live situations .