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by Sumit Singh

We had earlier announced our contract with UNICEF to work in Surguja district, Chattishgarh under the label Adolescent Engagement using Media Tools (AEMT).

Work on empowering adolescents through use of media has begun. Our local partner, Manav Sansadhan Sanskriti Vikas Parishad (MSSVP) helped us select children from four blocks of Surguja district. MSSVP has about five employees in each block of the district and it is through these support staff that we were able to make our way into the villages.  Given that child trafficking is rampant in this area, a few parents were reluctant to enroll their children for the training camp. It did take a lot of convincing by Assistant Project Co-ordinator (CAMP), Sumit Singh, Director (MSSVP) Manoj Bharti and the local staff to allow the kids to enroll. It’s to the credit of some kids that some of them managed to convince their parents since they “wanted to learn computers, camera and radio.”

Prabir Bose & Anju Uppal from Vikalpkriya trained the children in the first two workshops. The participants were from villages in Ambikapur, Udaipur, Batauli and Mainpat blocks of Sarguja district.

They were in their mid and late adolescence, mostly in the 15 to 17 years age-group, though in the first workshop (two batches) there were few who were as young as 12 years. All the participants were out-of-school. While most had dropped out three to four years back, there were few who discontinued their schooling from the current academic year. A couple of participants shared that they would like to re-enroll even as there were others (even below 14 years of age) who said they would discontinue their schooling if that was the criteria of selection for the video training.

The reasons for discontinuation of schooling were manifold. Most children said schools were boring and that teachers hardly made any efforts to make the classroom an interesting place to be in. Secondly, thanks to the RTE Act, even when children did not regularly attend school, their names were still on the rolls and they got promoted till the eighth grade! However, thereafter, education was neither free nor compulsory and children said their parents could not afford paying for the fees and other expenses. Besides for studying beyond eighth grade they would have to travel longer distances. This was especially a concern for girls as their parents felt it was unsafe –given the fact that public transport was unreliable and by this time their daughters had attained puberty.

The first batch of training them in soft skills began on July 03, 2014. While MSSVP had made all logistic arrangements including training space, accommodation and food, a couple of kids gave us anxious moments since they ran away from the programme!  It took us quite a while to figure out that they had reached their respective places safely!

On second day of first workshop four girls from first batch didn’t wanted to complete their workshop and insisted on leaving the training camp. All the four girls were dropped safely home. Atotal 55 participants completed their first workshop, while another 25 attended the second workshop.

While the first workshop concentrated on their ‘opening up’, the second workshop focused on communication, mass communication, journalism, citizen journalism and story telling.

Activities at the workshop:

  1. Signs and symbols: Participants used different sings and symbols to express their story. This activity helped participants to understand how symbols can be use for communication.
  2. Story Strip: Following the previous exercise participants, narrated a story by using six illustrated strips. Interestingly, each group came up with a different story although the illustrated strip was the same! A lesson in perception.
  3. Other games and exercises helped participants learn about intra-personal, inter-personal, and mass communication. Through group work and an imaging exercise, participants explored verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.
  4. Participants were provided with inputs on a brief history of mass media that brought out the linkages between technology and business, specifically related to print, audio, video and Internet. Children also discussed advantages and challenges of each of the types and compared newspapers, radio and TV.

On the last day of the workshop doctors from the district hospital did a health check up on all the participants.

The next set of activities include a theatre workshop with Bangla Natak. Sumit Singh will visit the houses of all the children and explain to the parents the objectives of the next set of workshops.

Watch a slideshow of the two workshops:

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